Just thirteen short years ago, in Lewinsky spring, just as a certain president was going underground, so were the Cicadas. Their rising up in the thawing of spring, this cyclical arch of springing forth from suspended animation, led to the surging song of males that would lure sacrificial females to their job, dropping like, well, cicadas once their eggs were laid.
And now, as a part of renewal and return, they are back. By the billions they are back. On May 25, not too far off from certain predictions of the end of the world, they starting popping out of their tiny holes in the ground. Their name was legion, which was of some concern for the apocalyptically minded. But in time, a very short time, they will disappear as quickly as they came. And one morning we will go outside and be greeted by a deafening silence.
So what is their purpose in the great big scheme of things? What part of the food chain do they occupy? And why the odd interval, this thirteen-year slumber between insect-scale orgies of mating and giving birth?
We must resist an interpretation from the human point of view as their existence most likely has little to do with homo sapiens.
Did they serve as an alarm clock for long-hibernating creatures we’ve never seen? Or did they go underground one time, in escape from, say, an impending ice age, or a great atmospheric disturbance caused by a rogue meteor, and stay subterranean for maybe thirteen years, until the coast was clear? And did that just become a habit, even though there was no more ice or no more atmospheric disturbance? Face it, habits are hard to break.
I just drove past a bus stop where a man was beating them off as though the furies of hell had just descended. They must have thought him a tree. Or another rather large cicada. He was shouting at them as he sliced his arms to and fro. I’m not sure what the cicadas thought about the incident, but I am sure that the bus stop man believed he had entered a battle of epic, of biblical proportion.
I’m betting the farm on a more mystical role for the winged, singing creatures. It might be that they show us and show us exceptionally well that the end of the world does come. But it comes in cycles, time and again. So if their particular and limited cycle of life exists within the great big cosmic cycle of life that might be saying something to us about our species. Just what that is, I’m not sure. But even if I was sure I wouldn’t tell. Because you would say that he’s just got cicada on the brain, it’s clouded his mind, there is buzzing in his ears. And you might be right.