The soundtrack of the fall

Who knew that such an ugly bug would become a part of my life? I’m talking about cicadas — big, ugly bugs that molt on tree bark and leave behind shells that make you shudder when you find them. There’s been more than one occasion where I’m walking under one of the trees in our backyard and I happen to see a big chunk o’ somethin’ stuck to the tree. Squinting and gradually drawing closer, I see that it’s a cicada molting. (I mean “molting” as a noun there; I don’t torture cicadas trying to shed their shells by letting my boys molest them in mid-process.) Then I like to pluck it off the tree and let it serve as entertainment for my two bug-lovin’ boys.

I grew up calling cicadas “locusts.” When as a child I heard that “yarrrrrrrryarrrrrrrrrrrrryizzzzzzzzzzz” sound (that’s my best cicada impression), I would crane my neck to look at the blue sky between the trees, hoping to see a “locust” in mid-flight. I don’t know why seeing bugs flying between trees was one of my main goals back then; I think I had always wanted to see what kind of creature made that buzzing sound that always marked summer days. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I found out that “locusts” are actually grasshoppers.

I remember the day we closed on our present house and we received the keys. That night my husband and I grabbed a few things from our pitiful apartment, threw them in the car, and drove to our new house to claim ownership. We pulled up, got out of the car, and were greeted by an almost deafening chattering. We looked at each other and said, “What in the world is that?” After a few minutes, we attributed the song to a treefrog or something along those lines, and left it at that. A few years (yes, years) later, I learned through the local chatter that the noise came from the big uglies known as cicadas.

I’ll never understand the instinct that signals all of them to start their chatter on the same night. They officially began on August 5, and the chorus will only get louder as the summer fades into fall. I don’t know if cicadas are everywhere in the US, but if you aren’t hearing their song at night, you’re missing out. It’s wonderful. Here’s a You Tube video that sounds pretty much the way they sound here … not the best sound, but I didn’t anticipate the popularity of cicada videos on You Tube (really!) and didn’t feel like wading through every single one.

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