Repost: The Sounds of Summer


 I’m still in South Florida, waiting for my car to be fixed.  The mechanic informs me that the transfer casing needs to be replaced and there is only one brand new part in the entire country and GMC cannot locate it.  There is, fortunately, a used part in Orlando that has arrived and just needs to be installed.

My mind is worried about my New York garden and the clean-up that is waiting for me there.  Three weeks is an awfully long time to be away, and I’m sure that there is mowing and weeding and staking to be done.

And my heart and prayers are in Colorado.  It seems silly, doesn’t it?  To be worried about car repairs and gardening when there is so much pain and absolute sadness surrounding the tragedy in Aurora.  With each news update, I long for simpler times.  Innocent times.  Times  when evil didn’t walk into a movie theater — or a school or a mall or a military base . . . and the only sounds to be heard came from life.

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.  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 with a film reference: on the porch with an ice-cold lemonade — none of those no-neck monsters — just me and Maggie and Brick and that endless song.

12 thoughts on “Repost: The Sounds of Summer

    • Hi Mario. That makes two of us. Tomorrow is the day for the installation. Hopefully it holds together to get us home — I don’t look forward to breaking down on I95. I may have a breakdown. :). By the way, thanks for the FB like. Cheers!

  1. Hi Kevin
    I hope you get home to a garden that is OK and that all your worries about it was for nothing 🙂 As for more serious worries, I feel for the people in Colorado too, today it was exactly 1 year since the atrocious shooting in my home country Norway, where 87 people were shot. Madness. On days like today I am happy I have a garden to retreat to and not needing to deal with the rest of the world. Simpler times. Well said.

    • Helene, I know what you mean about retreating. It’s just so sad — and that words doesn’t seem strong enough — that we are a world with so many one year anniversaries based on tragedies. What’s happening to us?

  2. Kevin! Friday I saw this huge bug on the brick wall near my deck. It was prehistoric-looking , as you say, with these fabulous transparent wings edged in a teal green. I immediately ran for my camera, took photos and later Googled its characteristics to see what it was. A Cicada!! It stayed on the wall all day but in the evening when I checked, it had flown away. Apparently they must wait until their wings are dry (after shedding the skin) before they can fly. It was creepy-looking but fascinating!! Thanks for the post.

  3. Dear Kevin – The sounds of the Cicada’s song still take me back to those long, sultry summer days! I remember well the mischievous grin of the little boy who would come up to me and touch my shoulder or give me a hug and wait, patiently watching, until I jumped up and screamed (in feigned horror!) and knocked the critter’s shell off my blouse! Then would begin the gales of laughter that I loved to hear! Thanks for the very happy memories of my teen-aged summers spent on Long Island with you and the rest of the family!

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