Friday, August 06, 2021

Friday Ramble - Little Singers in the Trees

An annual cicada's song is the quintessential music of August, a sonorous vocal offering from small jeweled beings who emerge from underground, shed their nymph skins, climb high into the light-filled trees and sing for a handful of days before expiring and returning to the earth from which they came. Their song is a joyful and ecstatic element in the slow, irrevocable turning of one season into another.

Only male cicadas sing but oh how they do sing, vibrating the complex abdominal membranes called tymbals over and over again to generate a raspy tune that will attract a mate. I have a lot to learn about identifying cicadas, but I think this one may be the bigger Linne's cicada rather than a Dog-day cicada. Whichever one it was, my little visitor was absolutely gorgeous.

Every summer, my beloved and I used to find discarded exoskeletons on the poplar trees in our Two Hundred Acre Wood. We always felt fortunate when we encountered a newborn in all its pastel pink and green splendor, sometimes still clinging to its cast off shell (exuviae). We stood looking at them for ages, marveling at their colors, their luminous eyes and the delicate fretwork of their wings. Adult cicadas (imagos) darken as their new exoskeletons harden and wings expand, but there is a fair bit of variation in coloration, and some will retain greenish wings all the days of their lives.

There has been a remarkable hatch of cicadas in the village this summer. For the last week or two, Beau and I have been rescuing them from sidewalks and roadways and moving them to safer lodgings, protected areas where they will not be trampled by pedestrians, canines and moving vehicles. On early walks, we keep an eye out and always encounter a few before we arrive home again. Our little friends chatter and buzz and protest when we move them, but they settle into their new surroundings cheerfully and with a minimum of fuss. Evenings, I take my mug of tea out to the garden and listen to cicada serenades before the sun goes down, and I shall be sad when I go outside one night, and there are no more cicada songs to be heard.

Call it "cicada mind" and cherish the notion. Our task is one of cultivating just this kind of patience, acceptance, rapt attention and unfettered Zen sensibility, of embracing our allotted days fully and singing wherever we happen to be, then dissolving effortlessly back into the fabric of the world when the time comes.

1 comment:

christinalfrutiger said...

I feel the same way about the song of the cricket since we don't have cicadas here in the least that I've ever heard. I am always sad when I don't hear them anymore when the weather turns cool. It's the same feeling I have when I can no longer see the bats circling about over the yard at twilight. Sad...
Gorgeous photo of your little friend on the tree!