Dog-day Cicada (Tibicen canicularis)
He climbed (or more likely dropped) onto the sundeck and the railing, and he just sat there for a while, breathing slowly in and out. His tymbal muscles contracted and relaxed, the rhythmic vibration producing what is, to me anyway, a brief rendition of summer's most resonant and engaging song. I took a few photos and told him how beautiful he was, thanked him for being here with us this summer. A few minutes later, he became still, the light in his eyes receding as he tumbled from his perch to the ground. For the first time after days of lighthearted cicada love songs in the garden, the old tree over the deck is silent, and I am bereft.
Nothing lasts forever. We are here for a while, and then we are not - that is, quite simply, how life unfolds. That is how it unfolds with big sisters and little sisters and blithe sisters of the heart, with canine companions and jeweled summer singers, with bumble bees, dragonflies and grasshoppers, frogs and snakes, rivers and trees and fields even. That is how it will unfold with me too one of these days, and I know it, but knowing how things work almost never makes it easier to handle them when they show up in life and insist that we pay attention.
It seems to me that there is more to mourning a cicada's passing than marking the silencing of an aestival song, the passing of a single tiny being who lived for a scant handful of days in the light and the overstory, the slow irrevocable turning of one season into another. If I have learned little in all my years of wandering around on the planet (and that is probably true), I do have some small inkling about that.
My cicada on the other hand, knew exactly what was happening, and he was easy in his mind with the whole thing - I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his last sonorous vocal offering. There's a lesson here. Our task is one of cultivating that kind of patience, acceptance and unfettered Zen mind, the willingness to dissolve effortlessly back into the fabric of the world when the time comes - in future, I think I shall simply call whole thing, "cicada mind". A young friend and I interred the little guy among the antique roses in the garden, and we will both think of him whenever we pass by that sunny corner. I wish I had thanked him for his teaching too.