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06.14.2012 ~ santa fe cicadas

by | Jun 14, 2012 | cicada, evening, New Mexico, pinon trees, Santa Fe, summer

The cicadas have come.

They arrived a few weeks ago, burrowing out of their decade-long home in the earth so as to scale the nearest evergreen and glue themselves to the windy limbs. There, in sunlight and moonlight, they break free of their armor and emerge winged, filling the sky with their song.

At 7:30 each morning is when they break into song at my house. That’s when the sun fully peaks over the eastern mesas and begins to build momentum across the morning.

Imagine the sound of a casting fly reel. Now multiply that sound by the thousands, and that’s what it sounds like around here when the sun is out.

In the evening — when the sun is low — the cicada song becomes a clicking sound. [Really, the poets need to find a descriptor other than “castanets” to describe the sound of that clicking. But for now it’s the best my limited poetic mind can muster.]

I guess it’s not really a “song” we’re hearing, since these sounds don’t come from the mouth of these creatures, but rather from the abdomen. At least that’s what the Wiki tells me. Well, whether it’s a vocal song or a belly song makes no difference to me; I remain fully entranced.

Not only entranced, but incredulous that these little guys have crawled out of this hard-packed earth from depths as deep as 8 feet. How do they do it?! And to think that when they went into the ground as little grubs some 10 – 17 years ago, my house wasn’t even here!

I keep studying the trees trying to spot them. It’s sort of like looking for four-leaf clovers: it takes a bit of training your eye, but once your eye is in the mode, you see them everywhere. I find late in the day to be the best time for spotting cicadas. I look for the exoskeletons on the pine limbs first. Find one or two of those, and you start seeing them everywhere — the late day sun illuminating those tiny abandoned coats of armor like Japanese lanterns. Soon you start noticing the winged cicadas themselves, and next thing you know, the pinons are alive with them.

There’s rich mythology around cicadas, and I can understand why: Their life underground as a grub is epically long, while their post-moulting life in the trees and sky is all too short (just a few weeks). Is it any wonder that they’ve come to symbolize reincarnation and insouciance in some cultures? I like that symbolism. They all will die in a few weeks, but I have a feeling they’re going to be returning again soon, in my studio.