Days of the Cicadas

 

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There was a 1962 movie called Day of the Triffids, starring of all people Howard Keel, about an alien invasion. That is what it feels like around my home today. Brood X has arrived.

Brood X is the term for this brood of cicadas, which has lived underground for 17 years, to emerge for a short time to mate and lay eggs. There are billions of them all over the Mid and North Atlantic seaboard in the US. And my home seems to be Ground Zero.

A cicada, if you have never seen one, is (in this recent incarnation), a winged insect maybe an inch and a bit long. They are surprisingly gentle flyers, and most prefer to perch on the trunks of trees. Oak and beech so far seem to be the favorites as far as I have seen. The din that they make is loud and exotic, even otherworldly, as if stepping outside you have stepped through to a jungle, or another planet. These are the Days of the Cicadas.

I have been around long enough to have seen them before. I have memories of a high school baseball game, the tall wooden poles of the field lighting almost invisible under the covering horde. There are other broods, but this one is the largest by far.

Unlike other swarms, the cicadas do no harm, but harm comes to them. They are something of a feast for the local bird population. I have heard that they are edible by humans, but I have seldom been more thankful to be a vegetarian.

After they have mated, they descend to the ground, and wait patiently to die. This is what fascinates me about them. Seventeen years in the ground for a few moments in the light. I have yet to unpack the richness of this metaphor.

But something about them I find heroic. Maybe it is that at the end of their lives they find the energy to create. I root for them as I see them flying into the trees, rooting for myself in the process.

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Sunday, 13 June 2021

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