HomeLeave 2010 part 2
Listening to Ghosts
For 20 years I lived here; 20 years ago I moved on. But as much as Florida and Colorado added, California redefined, and Europe has stretched, there are still little niches this place fills. It is my very good fortune to be hearing 17 Year Cicadas. These special locust-type creatures spend 17 years underground, waiting for the right summer to emerge and shed their terrestrial skins ~to be left on tree trunks, walls, everywhere~ a perfect shell of their immature selves. They take to the trees and begin to sing their buggy song. The way each one spins up, sings out, and winds down even as the next one is beginning suddenly reminded me of another sound engrained from childhood ~ tornado sirens. They would howl, each overlapping the one before. Their sound is, of course, entirely different. And yet the same, they cry “Listen. Hear me. Time is short.” The cicadas sing only to each other, but for me their call is the very sound of summer. My mother heard them heralding autumn, just around the corner. She was a grown up and knew summer didn’t last forever. But I was a child and never noticed how they weren’t the same in June. The end of summer had to be so far away and that roaring buzz in the trees and in the air was the soundtrack of endlessly open days full of heat and sunshine. And bird song. Sweet little birds that twitter and warble and coo. They weave beautiful patterns in the tapestry of insect calls and wind in the trees, punctuated by the chattering of squirrels. I could never tell a bird from its song except for our beloved cardinals. We called them all Mama or Papa Red when they sang their little hearts out, “Pretty pretty pretty; dong dong dong dong.” I still do.
Sitting on the back porch of all my growing years, I recall so many quiet evenings as the crickets and other night bugs would take over for the daytime sounds, somehow thinking that was the sound of stars twinkling, never to imagine how deeply those moments were being etched in my mind, in my being. 30 years and everything has changed, but as the band said, the song remains the same.