Song of the Cicada
By Shannon_Lell on February 01, 2012
I am not a bug person. I get a little squeamish when I see spiders and I'd rather not touch slugs if I can help it. I know spiders and slugs aren't technically bugs, but whatever, same difference. So it's strikes me as odd that I'm about to write about a bug for the second time on this blog. Go where the muse takes you, I guess?
I may not like bugs but I have always liked the word Cicada. I like way it feels in my mouth all curvy and staccato. I like the way the 'da' lingers at the end like telling a breathy secret. I've always thought it might be a good name for a pet.
Growing up in the Midwest I loved hearing the songs of the Cicadas. Cicadas come out in late Spring when it's warm. When you hear the Cicadas sing, you are likely outside somewhere near trees enjoying something beautiful, hopefully with a cocktail. Cicadas are the serenaders of warm, early summer eves when the collective spirits are high.
Cicadas can be heard every year, but the famous (or infamous) swarms of them don't arrive but once every 17 years. That is the length of the Magicicada's life cycle. These swarms, or Broods as they're called, live underground for 17 years before they emerge. During these 17 years they grow and when they get too big for their exoskeleton, they molt. When they finally emerge on the 17th year they go through one last molting wherein their wings emerge fully formed and functional for the first time. From there, they take flight. In a few weeks they will mate, the females will lay eggs and they all will die leaving behind trees caked in discarded exoskeletons. The eggs that were laid in the trees will hatch and the nymphs, as they're called, will fall to the ground, burrow in, and start the process all over again. It's fascinating really.
The last Magicicada emergence of "The Kansan Brood" which is located around my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri was 1998. The next emergence will be in 2015. Nineteen ninety-eight was my second year of college. I was 20 and in between my first and second moltings.
Moulting, according to Wikipedia is defined as, "...the manner in which an animal routinely casts off a part of its body (often but not always an outer layer or covering), either at specific times of year, or at specific points in its life cycle."
In my life cycle I have had very specific times when I underwent profound and excruciating molts. As a teenager, I was painfully lonely. On the surface it looked like I had plenty of friends, but just under that exoskeleton raw, tender and scared body. I was afraid because I felt a little different and a maybe a bit crazy and mostly unlovable to my core. I'm sure that's a common enough theme in adolescence and it was mine. Through those rough years I molted layers and layers of pride, but underneath I found understanding and compassion for people who seem a little different, and maybe a bit crazy, and perhaps who sometimes feel unloveable, too.
After college, somewhere around 23, I fell into a depression. I didn't know what I was doing with my life and I longed for a purpose. I felt like I was floundering and during that painful time I sloughed off a lot of feelings of worthlessness. Growing underneath all that dead weight was someone who had talent and work ethic and a fire of an ambition born out of embers of that self-doubt.
After I got married, when I was 28, I underwent another molt, a deeply personal one. I was selfish and still hanging onto some pride. It took a good long while to outgrow that skin. Under that hard exterior I found someone who loved to give more than she received and who refocused her myopic view of the world to incorporate others into her vision for a good life.
And the last, the big, granddaddy molt was last year when I was fired from my job under difficult circumstances. I carried around those layers for years. I didn't know it the, but I was clinging to them like superglue mixed with cement spackled onto my bones. Last year I chiseled away heavy coats of ego and self-righteousness and chunks and chunks of unimportant things that I no longer needed in my life.
And you know what I found under all that? Wings.
But I'm not done, oh no not yet. Because right now, as I write this... I'm learning how to fly...*
... and when I'm done, when the collective spirits are high and the time is right... I'm going to sing.
(*You guys, Cicadas are hideously ugly bugs. I mean, really, really creepy in every way. If you don't believe me, click here. But seriously, you can not UN-SEE that shit so please, click wisely. I picked the prettiest Cicada I could find on the Internet AND it isn't even a real photo. This little guy is apparently from Thailand. Enjoy.)
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