Cicadas on my Mind

“Do you know the legend about cicadas? They say they are the souls of poets who cannot keep quiet because, when they were alive, they never wrote the poems they wanted to.” ~ John Berger

The New York metropolitan area, where I live, is currently awash in what has been called “cicada fever”.  This is the year when the insects emerge from their 17 year sleep, come above ground and mate.  And swarm a bit.

They are harmless to humans: don’t sting, bite, carry nasty germs, so there’s no need to be afraid.  But they are loud.

I read that a male’s mating call can be as loud as 90 decibels. The paper said this was about the sound of a lawn mower. Other sources say a hair dryer.  A busy city street is about 85 decibels, normal conversation about 60.

Needless to say, cicadas are known for their song!  And I’ve seen this Berger quote a few times, always in isolation, usually written about poets, never the actual insect.

But they fascinate us, don’t they? With their odd life cycle, set as it is to a prime number. Many see this as something mystical. We humans also love the reliability of their showing up. We like cycles, rhythms. It helps us make sense of things.

They come and they sing their song, long and loud and proud, as they should. Maybe they are annoying to us, but they don’t care a whit.  Because for them, the song is life, almost literally. It’s their mating call, and if they don’t sing it, well, there’s the end.

I can see why the old story about the cicadas came about. Actually, I’ve only ever seen this “old story” in connection to Berger, so I suspect he created it.  But like the cicada, we should sing our songs, write our poems, express ourselves in this life while we’re here.

I think that’s a very good lesson for us all.


About maggiec

Educator, writer, world traveler, bibliophile, theater devotee, cat lover, mother of an actor, adopted auntie to hundreds. Spreading love (and literacy), one day at a time.
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