The air temperatures
climb to the triple digits,
or close to it,
these days,
but it drops twenty degrees
in evening
and the night and morning breezes
are soft and almost-cool.
Ending and beginning the day
standing in the soft air
is a balm.
However, it is the day’s heat
that sets the cicadas
singing
and that too
is a balm.
Their rhythmic, pulsing serenade
speaks to the sizzle of summer
and the danger—
should you let yourself be
entrained to the lazy sound
some sweltering afternoon—
of entering a dreamy, trance-like
state.
This gift of the sound of summer
is permission to relax
into Earth’s lazy, sun-drenched pace.
I’d heard, somehow,
that the cicada makes the sound
by rubbing its legs together,
like crickets.
Not so.
He is moving part of his abdomen
(the timbal) in and out
to make a clicky sound
and attract a female.
The clicking,
which he can modulate,
resonates loudly
because his abdomen is mostly hollow.
The female who likes a particular male’s
clicking,
clicks back.
There are 2,500 species of cicada
globally
and each cicada species
has its own sound
to attract females in its species.

When the cicadas mate,
a female lays dozens of eggs
in the slit she makes in a tree branch.
When the nymphs are born
they drop to the ground
and burrow into the soil
where they live for two to five years,
typically—
(though there are also 13-year
and 17-year cicadas. The sound when they emerge
reaches deafening decibels.)
The cicadas’ lives are spent
mostly underground,
as nymphs, living on root juices.
Finally, they dig a tunnel
and emerge,
shedding their shells
on a tree.
Yesterday,
learning all this,
I watched a two-second
time-lapsed video of an adult cicada,
emerging from its shell,
unfold its wings
from the cramped quarters.

As we had dinner on the front porch
last night,
I noticed something on a porch post.
It wasn’t a wasp or a moth
and when I investigated
I realized it was a cicada.
But it looked different:
same eyes,
wingless body.
It was only when I glanced back
a few minutes later
that I realized I had just missed
the opportunity to watch
an adult cicada emerging
from its shell.
There it was,
atop the vacant shell,
resting,
its big black eyes staring,
its wings fresh,
soft blue, delicate.
Such a different kind of life—
living most of it underground
and then emerging
so beautiful
to make such an enchanting sound
at the end.
I have to sit,
listening,
considering,
to even begin
to see life
from the cicada’s perspective.
By now,
the morning after,
I imagine it to be high in the Hackberry,
strengthening its timbals,
getting ready to sing
into being
the next generation
of a sizzling summer’s serenaders.

Cicada freshly emerged from its shell
on a front porch post
at Turtle Rock Farm

Mature adult cicada on side of farmhouse