Thursday, June 23, 2011

High Drones, Piercing Whines, Kissy Sounds and a purr...

"The friends were in an ecstacy of meeting."

"I am listening. I am listening intently."

Ani.  Some things just have to be recorded.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Our rented house is being worked on right now, which means a lot of dust and noise and an inoperable front door.  It's work that needs to be done (see that chimney around the front door? It's falling down), so I'm grateful and all, but as I stood in the backyard this morning, wiping down each and every leaf on the potted sungold tomato plants that I dragged around to get out of the shower of ground mortar, in order that the plant be able to breathe, I was musing about the sounds of summer in town. There is a jackhammer one street over, several lawnmowers, including the ride-on mower across the street at the school. There is the high whine and scrape of the blades cutting into the brick on the front of our house.

It amazes me what we humans are able to block out in order to live our daily lives. I mean, this noise begins at 7:00 in the morning, but if I needed to, I could talk myself into ignoring it well into the morning.  In fact, it is necessary, as I'm sure it is for the fellows who are actually doing the work (without earplugs OR masks, I might add. well, I see the masks, but they're in their plastic, resting on the mortar mixer, next to the safety glasses.); if I were focused on this screeching, how could I hear anything else, including my own mind?

So it was that my brain was marveling at this ability of ours to ignore really unignorable things like loud sounds, when I heard a hummingbird fly by, making its kissy "tch tch" sound. Then my compost pile started up with a small squeaking (which I know, probably isn't a good sign - either there are mice visiting our kitchens' spoils or we have created an animate compost pile, which I guess would at the least be interesting...), and I realized that the predominant sound of summer for me hasn't yet started up yet. Where are the cicadas??? 
 When we were in Virginia, over Memorial Day weekend, we found this periodical cicada in the water.  A boy who was swimming stopped tormenting it at my request, and pushed it ashore so Eliza and I could get a good look at it.  See its red eyes? The "dog-day" or annual cicadas which emerge every year don't have those.  This cicada appears to be a member of the XIX Thirteen-year brood, which emerged last in 1998 (according to Cicadas! Strange and Wonderful by Pringle.)

I have such a fondness for cicadas. I think they are a beautiful insect, and I appreciate that for their size, they are actually very benign critters.  They sure can make a racket though, the males tightening and relaxing muscles attached to thin membranes called tymbals. I remember camping during the summer of 1991 in Kentucky and Georgia, during the emergence of Brood XIV of the 17-year cicadas, and the sound was deafening, lasting long past sunset (making for a rather creepy tent-camping experience).
Something magical happened while Eliza and I were examining this guy, who seemed quite stunned by his time in the water, but revived fairly quickly to crawl around on E's hand. He started making a noise, much different from the high drone of his mating call. It was more like a little murmur, a purr. He was talking to us, and I'd like to think he was saying thanks for the ride to the nearest tree.

So, where are the cicadas around here? Where is that sound of summer? Wise old Ani tells me, it ain't time yet, lady. Be patient, they'll come when summer gets really really hot. Ok, I can wait.


Stephanie said...

Yup. Crickets haven't started yet... (well, 'cept the ones in the cage for the frogs)... Annabelle just started shedding her spring coat about a week ago... St John's isna flowering, yet, though any day... it begins, though.

Dan said...

I may quote you here in my dissertation, love.

Bagman and Butler said...

I read that this is a year of cicadas. Good catch. And amazing to see a door inside a chimney! What interesting architecture.

Reba said...

I thought I had read somewhere that the temperature has to be above a certain degree(something in the 80s...85?) for several days in a row for the cicadas to start singing. And because of this the cicada's song is a sign for planting the last sets of beets, turnips, spinach for fall harvest. I will see if I can find what I read and let you know!