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09/7 2014

Cicadas

Right now, outside my window, the cicadas are in full click.  Late summer song, I know it won’t last.  The heat of August has passed, and like many a Chicagoan, I am holding on to this last bit of sun until the winter takes hold.  It may seem premature, but we all know what is coming, so we force ourselves into the last bits of heat, every day.

A month ago I was back in Shanghai, my home for too short a time, walking down Xikang Lu to meet friends and hearing the cicadas alive and singing.  It was a cool summer this year in Shanghai and we all were grateful after last year’s oppressive heat.  There is something there though, that I love about the sweating, sweltering weather and the song of the cicadas.  The Idahoan in me never knew I would come to love humidity and the ongoing click of an insect in full song.  We do not have this sound in Idaho.  There are birds, and frogs, and the buzz of mosquitos but not the raging clack and clatter of the cicada that signals summer.  Summer with heavy air that is so thick, like my friend Joanna in DC once described as feeling like you’re walking behind a bus.  She said it, and I agreed, in a moment of misery, but I have actually come to love the oppressive heat.  This is weather you wear small dresses in and lament about.  You ride your bike around and then go into an air conditioned bar and love the taste of a cold beer.  You complain about the heat to strangers on the heat and they say “don’t I know it” then smile and move on.

About ten years ago I was on a train platform in Nagoya waiting to go home and a cicada flew into me, assaulted my bag and clicked like mad while I jumped, wildly and feverishly around the train platform until it had unhinged from me and flown off into a light or a tree or something.  The sound was so loud it alarmed me, but of course once it was gone I realized how foolish and juvenile I’d been to react so spastically to a confused insect.  All cards on the table, I will admit to being a bit wild when it comes to insects on my person.  I wave hands and jump around.  I wish I were not this way, but I do get a bit freakish in my reactions.

Shortly after that experience I was in Kyoto, visiting tourist sites and enjoying the song of the cicadas while in a yukata, soaking up the culture of a Japan in the company of my Japanese friends who taught me how to walk in those crazy wooden shoes, and took me to restaurants to enjoy food I’d never imagined.  The hospitality of the friends I had in Japan is enormous, and for them I am forever grateful.  Walking through a temple, my friend Yukie stopped to show me a husk of a cicada since gone – a body left.  It was there on the side of a tree, suspended in time, as though waiting for us to find it.  “Look” she said, knowing my stories of learning to love cicadas “it as if he knew you were coming and needed to see this.”

She could not then know the future, of what that moment would mean to me, but I think she knew that then, right then, was a moment I would remember forever.