It’s positively steamy outside. I’m watching the sprinkler water the zinnias on the far side of the pool, and completely drowning out the sound of running water is the non-stop, rapid-fire droning chirps of the Cicadas. Some might consider the sound a nuisance or torture, but I find the chirping can trigger memories and it sparks my imagination.
As a kid, we always incorrectly referred to these buzzers as locusts — but no matter what we called them, no sound reminds me more of the dog days of summer than the Cicada’s song. It’s like a sizzling sound effect, perfectly accentuating the sun’s rays scorching the garden. A never-ending sizzle, that forces me to stand as still as the hot, humid air. As one chorus whines to an end, another starts up, and so on and so on.
I remember being captivated each time we found the shell of a Cicada’s discarded skin. Looking like a miniature Alien creature, they would be hooked under chairs, patio tables, plants, branches — anywhere. In fact, they attached so easily to anything that they were perfect for scaring your sister or aunt into thinking an enormous bug was crawling on their shirt.
The chirps are actually a conversation of sorts, with topics ranging from danger warnings to mating calls. While I have not had the opportunity to translate the various pitches and range in volume, they do make me imagine myself in a Tennessee William’s drama, like Cat On A Hot Tin Roof — the kind of setting where all you do is fan yourself while sitting on the veranda, drinking an icy lemonade, listening to Big Daddy go on and on — only to be upstaged by the maddening chirps.
I think what impresses me about Cicadas is that where I live, most insects are normal sized — nothing too prehistoric. Of course there are June Bugs (not a fan of those) and Praying Mantis (love them!), but the Cicada looks like it’s pumped up on steroids. My father caught one once and carefully tied a string to it. It was like a toy helicopter circling about him — just a guy taking his Cicada out for a spin. (The Cicada was released, unharmed, but probably a little dizzy.)
Apparently, my father and I are not the only ones who are fond of Cicadas. There is a website, Cicada Mania, devoted to all-things Cicada, the ancient Chinese culture regarded the insect as a symbol of rebirth, and other cultures consider them a delicacy. As for me, I’ll take my Cicadas on the porch with an ice-cold lemonade — none of those no-neck monsters — just me and Maggie and Brick and that endless song.