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Suburban Island

In the Midst of Cicada Season
Monday, May. 24, 2004, 10:15 a.m.

QUESTION: Can bugs have a certain charm?

WHAT I LEARNED: Every 17 years I can stand some extra bugs in my life.

It’s a love-hate relationship we are having here with the cicadas. Some people have festivals to celebrate their appearance - after all they only turn up every 17 years and as such their appearance lends itself to such things. Some folks are practical and have cicada cook-offs. Others enjoy the entertainment value of torturing hysterical cicada haters with the loud rather imposing bug.

For instance, one of my pals turned up at my house so that his teenage stepdaughter could hear the cicadas. It seems there aren't as many cicadas in their area and they don't get the bug sound effects on blast like we do. This of course led to flicking cicadas at the kid off the top of their van – a perfect launching pad. It was obvious these cicadas had been lined up for blast off. As a cicada-fearer myself I felt a strong urge to severely pinch my friend. I was also bit taken aback when his wife – dressed up in her Sunday best – stood in my living room talking about the cicadas and trying to convince her daughter that they weren’t so bad. It wasn’t her daughter’s distress that surprised me. It wasn’t her cicada accolades that distressed. It was realizing that she had a cicada perched on her finger in the middle of my living room that sent me over the top. Woman what are you thinking – I wanted to scream. Have you gone mad? I pictured a cicada living in my house for weeks while we tried to locate it behind large pieces of furniture. The thought was more than I could bear, so trying not to startle friend or bug, I firmly but gently insisted that she and the bug remove themselves without further delay to the great suburban outdoors immediately beyond our threshold.

Now that was a scary moment.

Personally, I am of two minds about the cicadas (as long as they are outdoors where they belong). I don’t like big bugs with wings unless they are butterflies. However, I recognize that I am participating in a rare moment in the local natural cycle of life and as such, just like comets and lunar eclipses, I needed to recognize the value of the experience that was being presented to me. I will outlast the cicadas for another 17 years and can reminisce with the best of them about the summer of 2004 – the cicada summer – until the next round. That’s 17 years of big talking about the cicada summer of 04 until I have to actually deal with the cicadas en masse again.

From what I have written in earlier entries I may have given the impression that I do not love cicadas and that is quite true. Besides being big flying bugs that make a noise like a sound effect in a sci-fi film, they are just everywhere and as we all know being too available can make anyone tiresome after a while. Never knowing where they will pop up, I hesitate to do anything in the garden for fear of disturbing a resting cicada and paying the price. I have become a coward about sitting outside in the evening to enjoy the end of the day with my computer in my lap. I know a cicada will land on me - because that’s how life works - and I will toss my laptop in the air in a fit of get-that-bug-off-me panic. Technology must be safeguarded and if that means no evenings of diary writing in my lawn chair in the garden, then that’s the price I am willing to pay.

I have had a few moments of cicada appreciation however. For instance, when working in my home office I spied a cicada sitting right outside my window on a rose bush. I have to admit that with the sun glinting off its rosy iridescent wings, it was rather pretty in a buggy sort of way. Then there was this moment – a perfect photo op pointed out to me by my husband. I couldn’t help but laugh over this cicada’s choice of resting place.

The eerie raucous hum of the cicada still hangs over everything. I try to remember that soon it will be gone and I will have experienced a little piece of local history. Experience often requires sacrifice and I suppose a few weeks without sitting in a lawn chair every evening is a small price to pay for so much bug happiness crammed into so few weeks every 17 years and a few tall tales for me to tell the my future grandchildren.

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