Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer's Spirit Singing

Yesterday I heard the first cicada song of this most unusual summer season, and when the resonant music floated down to my ears from one of the tall trees in the garden, I dropped my pruning shears and did a happy dance in the grass, Spencer cavorting right along with me.

I apologize for the quality of the photos, but they are the only cicada photos in my digital archive - they date from the summer of 2006 and were taken with my first digital camera ever, a tiny Sony with little or no zoom and no nifty features whatsoever. It was (however) an easy device to tuck in one's pockets and take to the woods on a hot summer day.

For all their shortcomings, I am fond of the images - they are of a magnificent bug, and one which is truly dear to my heart. The imago (adult) in these photos had just shed its carapace, and it clung to its discarded shell on a cottonwood tree in all its jeweled pink and turquoise glory, breathing in and out slowly and waiting for its wings and body to firm up.

The central figure in a well known Chinese classic called Journey to the West is a priest who is called the Golden Cicada. The cicada is a powerful motif in Asian wisdom tales, and it also makes frequent appearances in haiku old and new. Its climb into the light of day and the shedding of its shell represent the pure light of wisdom and the many stages in one's earthly journey which must be completed before all illusions are shattered, and one attains enlightenment. To "shed the golden cicada skin' means to outwit and deceive through trickery, specifically to use decoys to fool one's enemies.

When I encountered it, I thought that this single cicada was one of the beautiful things I had ever seen in all my years. Its delicate colors, its round luminous eyes and its hopeful expression were poignant indeed, when one considers that it was nearing the end of its life cycle, and that its buzzing ballad in the high trees would be its parting song to the great wide world.

There is no fool like an old fool, but I am in fine company and happy to be there.

5 comments:

quiet said...

Yes, I love the song of the cicada too. It is a summer sound and only a few months away for us.

Jaliya said...

Last night, it was cicaidas and crickets ... Amazing concert ... I love those sounds ...

Jain said...

No need to apologize for the photos, I think they're lovely!

Rowan said...

I had no idea that the cicada was so lovely, I've only ever heard them and only that when I'm abroad as we don't have them in UK - too cold I suspect:)

liliannattel said...

I love the sound of cicadas but I've not seen a photo before. thanks!