Cicada Summer

It’s funny how cicadas grow on you.

They sit in the ground a long time, gestating in the heart of the earth for thirteen years – millions of them. When the long nap is over and the time is right, they emerge. That’s what the entomologists call it – an “emergence.” It is a fitting word. They come out of the ground, and what once was but a faint memory – or no memory at all if you are a child – now stakes its brief claim on the earth.

It is a brief sojourn – a few short weeks – and the cicadas seem to know it. Perhaps recognizing brevity of days, they spend them singing and mating; mostly singing though, from the sound of it.

Their bulky bodies seem out of proportion for flying, making them easy prey for birds, certain rodents, and windshields. Even so, they cast clumsiness and vulnerability to the wind, flying in their wobbly way hither and yon, from tree to tree, singing as they go.

I sit out on the deck on a mild late spring afternoon, barely noticing the sun and the clouds, lost in my own mind. The worries are always the same, only the days change – worry about my children and how they will make it in a world that seems increasingly treacherous; anxiety about the vulnerability that seems always at the doorstep as unemployment levels remain too high, wars proliferate, and many politicians seem oblivious; concern about so many in our congregation who bravely face new struggles in their lives. These worries compete with the usual bills to pay, errands to run, appointments to keep – a frenetic pace that threatens at times to consume the spirit.

Somewhere in the litany of troubles, I notice a sound. It has been there all along, but I hear it as if for the first time. Cicadas, thousands of them, singing their songs. It seems this is what they were put on the earth to do, among other things. They don’t get long to do it, so their singing seems especially urgent. It is a kind of invitation.

Maybe I should accept it. After all, I have been put here for a purpose: to glorify God and enjoy God forever. My time – our time – is so very short. Why not throw clumsiness and vulnerability to the wind and sing the song we were meant to sing?

Soon enough the last cicada will sing its song, and the earth will grow quiet. Old noises will re-emerge, the usual voices vying for our frayed attention. I will be 57 the next time the cicadas sing, the Lord willing. Between now and then, I pray our songs might emerge as worthy substitutes, filling the air of this fragile, vulnerable, beloved earth with hope and joy.