Surviving the Cicadas

I hate summer. There, I said it. And that is the hill I will die on.

To be specific, I hate the Washington D.C.-area summer, the swamp-like, cicada-infested, humid hell I am subjected to between May and mid- to late September. July is my least favorite month, and the day I get to put away my shorts, bikinis and tank tops for the year is my favorite day.

There’s also the added pressure of enjoying yourself during the summer, of taking advantage of a hot week and go to the beach, or camping or hiking. With the exception of camping, I would gladly do any “summer” activity during the cooler months – last year, my boyfriend and I went to the beach when the weather was in the 20s and the windchill by the ocean made it feel like the teens. I felt comfort in the empty beach and letting the sun that doesn’t warm you up shine on my mostly covered face.

As summer starts drawing to a close, I am not sad to be staring at the last quarter of the year, and I’m more amazed that I woke up one day and it’s September. For a long time now, I have started thinking of time as Monday through Sunday on repeat, and filling up the time in between. What I am also not sad about as summer ends is cicadas packing their bags and finding a hole to hibernate in.

I’ve accepted the fact that I’m a city rat, someone who is more comfortable around the sounds of sirens, traffic or people walking by the front door while talking on their phone. The sounds of the city comfort me, and I’ve been known to have trouble sleeping when I can hear the rush of ocean waves nearby or the empty sound of silence. So, instead of feeling comforted and wistful at the sound of the cicada song and crickets chirping, I am irritated by it.

I hate the sounds of summer, the cicadas, crickets, fireworks that go off on any day besides the Fourth of July. So one day last week, as I sat in bed contemplating what to write for my Morning Pages as part of The Artist’s Way, I wrote three pages of how much I hate cicadas. We are supposed to write whatever comes to our minds in a stream of consciousness, for three pages, first thing after waking up. When I tell you that all I could hear were cicadas invisible in some tree outside my window… they are cackling as I write this, and the screeching is all I can hear again.

Lest I suffer alone, this week’s post is a transcription of that morning’s ramblings, very much relevant until the pesky insects find their holes to crawl into and stop tormenting me.

Happy reading! Please tell me I’m not alone in hating the summer heat and the feeling of your face melting for months…

Image of a cicada perched on a tree
Photo by Shannon Potter on Unsplash

These damn cicadas are so distracting. It’s not a song or a screech, but an incessant sound, a rain stick that keeps getting turned and turned and turned. It’s the opposite of soothing – it’s intrusive. When it fades into the background and you don’t notice it, you can almost ignore the fact that it’s summer. When the screeching breaks through your consciousness, they are all you can hear, like their cursed song is a siren song that drives you mad with their decibel-planting larvae in your ear.

That’s the sound of summer, and if you’re extra lucky you’ll hear crickets on top. Crickets at least fall quiet when you or another predator get too close. Even though they’re invisible like their cicada siblings, they know their song indicates their presence, that it threatens their safety and location. Cicadas are up on the trees, and by the sound of their army, their song is an invitation, a challenge as well as their raison d’être. They sing to invite you to challenge their position. For every one of them that sings, a brother or a sister is ready with its family to defend their sacred singing ground. For a few months, ours is not to wonder, but to listen in awe.

Ours is to remember that they will be gone in a few months, that they’ll retreat into the ground and ask nothing but for you to wait until next year. When the ground is warm enough to warm their waiting exoskeleton, they rise to sing, to sing their neighbors away, to sing their neighbors to sleep, to sing the summer away.

Cicadas come out of the ground to fulfill their duty. Theirs is to get up and sing. To them, it looks like any other summer. It’s hot, the days last longer and the trees have plenty of leaves to hide in. They don’t see that the heated months last longer now, that a different family lives in a house under a specific tree, that a dog that barked at the sister cicada that got too close one year isn’t around another year. They don’t notice that it’s a summer that their audience grew, with more people at home to wake up with a song or more people to serenade as they sing from their trees in a park of by an artificial pond.

They keep singing, screeching and calling, doing the only thing they’re aware of that needs doing. When their song dies down, when they need a collective break, a section of their orchestra starts building again, building to a crescendo, leaving a brother or sister cicada to sing out a solo for a few notes, letting everyone else rest. When the urgency of the solo builds and calls for a response from the chorus, the song begins again. Until the end of summer.

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