It’s deafening and more than a bit disturbing. The “Great Southern Brood” they are called. Millions of flying bugs have invaded the south leaving us feeling a bit like a scene from The Ten Commandments – but there is no Moses in sight and I’m not sure what we did to provoke this plague. Hailed as the world’s largest brood of Cicadas, the insects have been sleeping underground for 13 years – that’s right, 13 years.
The Cicadas wake up on cue (a phenomenon scientist cannot explain) and begin their life cycle as adults. They also begin their terrorizing spree, flying haphazardly into everything and screaming furiously at you when they cut you off – much like traffic in New York City. They cover trees and plants, making a buzzing noise that is unbelievably loud. They “sing” their mating song in unison – millions of them. It feels like the trees are vibrating with some kind of otherworldly life form. It is so bizarre and un-nerving that you have to laugh at them or you’ll go nuts.
My eldest daughter was six the last time “The Brood” invaded. It was a traumatic event in her young life. She was a timid, sweet, little first grader. Not the age or gender to be much of a bug enthusiast. Of course, it didn’t help that the winged creatures were everywhere and that they would dive at her and get tangled in her hair. When trapped in her long brown locks, they would begin their horrible buzzing, trying frantically to escape. Going out the door was like stepping into Hitchcock’s thriller, The Birds. It was terrible and she cried every time we had to leave. I remember finally resorting to using an umbrella as a shield as we raced her to the car. It was not a happy time.
Our one consolation was that we could tell her, “Honey, you will be 19 and in college the next time these silly Cicadas come back.” That seemed like such a far away imaginary time and place that it would never materialize. It felt like it was centuries away – some other world – some other universe. Around the fourth of July that year, the Cicadas finally made their journey down into the deep dark earth and all was quiet again. No more umbrella-shields, and playtime on the merry-go-round at the park was back on the schedule. We were happy again and the Cicadas were forgotten.
A few weeks ago, that same little six-year-old schoolgirl drove in the driveway from her first year away at college. She has a focused college major, her own living space in a house on campus, friends that I have never met, and a life of her own. We are living in that imaginary space and time that I thought would never come. It seems impossible to me that the Cicadas are back and…that she is grown.
It has been a stretch for me to find the “Goodness” in “The Brood” that has invaded us over the last few weeks. Thankfully they are not harmful insects and do not bite, sting, or destroy. For me, they have become an event that marks time – a reminder that even if you can’t imagine it – the future comes. It makes me want to pay more attention, take better notes, be more “present” in my own life instead of worrying and fretting or simply being distracted from my time here. I want to be a better participant in my own life instead of letting time slip away on a shallow stream of pressures, distractions, and obligations. I want to celebrate the days more and cherish the moments, because I realize that next time the Cicadas come, it is not unlikely that my little girl will be the one holding the umbrella, shielding her own little one from “The Brood.” Life will only slow down if I savor it and hold it closely – if I cherish every second – even the season of the Cicadas.
A “Good” Idea:
What things mark time in your life? How can you be more present?
To learn more about the Cicaida watch this interesting link from the Tennessean: