Thursday, September 12, 2013



I think I had one of the strangest phone calls ever yesterday.   Caro had been out for errands in the morning, before she settled in for her day’s sleep before work, and I stepped up the stairs to say Hello before she went to bed.


She was laughing as I walked into the dim of her room, and she said, “I just had a passenger.   As I opened the back door, there was a locust sitting on the screen, and when I came in here and started to take off my pants, something whirred and flew off into the dark over there.”    I looked around, into her shoes, beneath a chair, over beyond the lamp and dropped books, but didn’t see anything.
"Oh, well," she said.  "I'll hear her when she starts to sing."



After I’d been back downstairs for some time, the phone rang.    “There’s a locust on me,” she said.  "I’m afraid it will fly away again if I reach for it.”
I grabbed bathroom Dixie and a paper towel, and headed up, to find Caro lying in bed beneath the sheet, with a big green-winged beauty sitting blithely  on her hip.  Cup capture, towel-scoot in, and out the door with locust, where I set her down, towel and all.   
She regarded me with those huge luminous eyes for a moment.  Then “BDDDDDDDDTTTT!” she said before she flew up into The Tree.    
“You’re welcome," I said.   Why she’d flown back up in that darkened room to sit upon the same person, I’ll never know, but there you have it.   I got off this train, so I’ll just get back on and see if I can get home.
We’ve always called them “locusts” Down South, these cicadas of the merry music, and they’re called Katy-dids and tree-frogs and other misnomers in lots of places. 
They come in a lot of sizes and colors, from green-winged singing jewelry 


photo by Paul Davidson, cicada charmer extraordinaire

To the big ole Southern Bubba Bugs I’m used to in the south. 

They look at you with such wise regard, and if you ignore  the little red clown cheeks, and just think “face”, it becomes a definite little countenance, with eyes, nose, mouth, ears---like the stoic funeral mask of a warrior buried with the Pharoahs.   


And the import of the unearthing is heralded with as much or more clamor, though not for glimpse of riches or history, but for the glory of the temporary song.


Summer cicadas are just a fact of life in the hot climes we’re from.   They keep up an unending orchestra, day and night, for all the hot days.   Their mating song or praying for rain or just sheer gladness to be up out of the long dark---it’s a joyous thing or a sign of Summer or a confounded nuisance, depending on how you look at it. 




You hear it, or you don’t---a lifetime of the sounds of Summer dulls the senses to it, like a background fan or trains in the night.   It’s just THERE, in the air and the trees and such a constant hum that it’s just in you, like the flow of a river or the flurr of the wind.
These beautiful creatures were the background chorus at our wedding, with the vigor of the late-afternoon singing drowning out some of the vows.   And despite the import of what we were saying, of the music and the prayers and the cheers and applause, that weee-ooo scritch-and-sing was so gravely, timelessly meaningful a white noise---like the ringing of a billion distant bells,  that I would not swap it for heralds.
Just think of it---all that jeweled splendor, and all that music---buried beneath the earth for all those years while our children grew up, our grandchildren were born, the world spun and changed, and changed again.   
 Just awaiting the moment, and their time is now.  



Southern Lady said...

I'll never think of a locust without remembering a funny thing our daughter said when she was little and saw her first locust shell attached to a tree. She said, "That bug left its face ..."

Loved your romantic locust story, but I don't think I would have been as calm as Caro if one lit on me.

Chesapeake said...

Oh, Rachel, the vows were perfectly audible to us watching; it was just in the videotape that they drowned you out--or so I remember it! That punch was mighty good, and lived up to its name.

jeanne, backyard neighbor said...

Well Rachel, I now have a brand new view of those noisy little creatures.You are a true romantic. If I had been Caro I would have screamed my head off. HA. I love your sweet story and your awesome description of your 'summer song.'

Love, Jeanne

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

They appear to be even more complex than a human being..wish we had color that didn't fade. How nice that would be. I sort of skipped quickly by the VERY close ups...I'm a bit squeemish..however..they might see us the same way..
The one that landed on Caro was a brave soul..don't you think? :)

mississippi artist said...

One of my dogs has been sitting on the deck by the steps guarding the premises from the cicadas. She was not greeted with praise when she brought one in to play with -or torture-though!

Louign Aman said...

cicadas have been present in the stories i read since i was a child. I never heard them tho, before last summer. oh my do they get loud sometimes!
you make me see them as prettier than i did before i read the story.