Cicada?

Swallowtail butterfly wings surrounding the word "cicada?" in black type

I didn’t grow up with cicadas or the sounds of cicadas. There are apparently 30 species of cicada found in California (and 3,000 worldwide), but almost none of them are commonly found or heard in the Los Angeles metro area. I remember hearing my first true ear-ringing buzz-saw worthy cicada at a private campground in Arizona as an adult in my early-twenties. True story: I turned to my friend and asked why the campground would play a recording of such demented cricket noises so loud on the PA system. My friend, who also grew up in suburban Los Angeles, shrugged and said she didn’t know. Rest assured, I have now heard the infamous cicada mating calls many times and have been made to understand how much a part of summer they are for many people around the world.

So when the theme for the Kick-About #8 was announced on Red’s Kingdom blog as simply the word “Cicada,” I knew I wanted to lean towards the absurd a little. What is a cicada to someone who has never heard or seen one? Insects are as vulnerable to climate change and extinction as any other creature – what happens when we start asking after cicadas when they don’t emerge as reliably? Or at all?

Broken parts of a green june beetle surrounding a

I wish to emphasize that no bugs were harmed in the making of this art. I went in search of local insects that had met their demise naturally. I was lucky in finding the Swallowtail butterfly wings right away, but then the supply of large naturally-deceased insects dried up. As they say, the fastest way to make something disappear is to go looking for it on a schedule. I finally found a mostly intact green june beetle. I’m looking forward to seeing what “Cicadas” meant to the other Kick-About participants!

16 comments

  1. Love this, Marcy! As someone who grew up in farm country of the Midwest, I had to laugh about your story. It was so much a part of the aural geography of my childhood. I’m so glad that no insects were harmed in the making of your art, but I still find it disconcerting because it feels like I’m finding beauty through the looking glass of death. Guess that falls in line with the definition of the sublime, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jilanne! I love the idea of an aural geography – that’s beautiful. I’m going to have to think on that, because suburban Los Angeles is such a human, built environment, and yet there were sounds of nature – they were just not as dramatic as cicadas!

      I know what you mean – having these pieces propped on my “studio desk” (AKA a card table in the corner of our spare room) all week, the question mark after cicada strikes me alternately as mirthful and dark, varying moment to moment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. They are so fascinating! We typically think of insects as having such short lives, but 17 years is not short. What an event to anticipate – I could see writing many poems and stories about them. I’d like to see your cicada poem – reply with a link ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What beautiful wings! Cicadas have always been part of my summer. I like your question–we are always trying to get rid of bugs, but they have an important place in the ecology of Earth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kerfe! This year I’ve seen a lot of Swallowtails flying around, more than I have in the last few years. I know their populations follow a boom/bust cycle sometimes. After I decided what I was going to do for the Kick-About, I found these near my work, laying there perfect like that. It was a spectacular start!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I saw a swallowtail a few weeks ago, and also a monarch. Usually all I see are cabbage butterflies around here. I think your wings must have been a gift left just for you!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Marcy,
    Cicadas are an integral part of my Summers. In the Australian bush, the air vibrates at a pitch so intense that it creates a madness that requires a strong focus to exist at all. Now in Spain, the calls are a gentle reminder that the creatures exist for up to 7 years below ground before they burst through the soil, then through their brittle cases to emerge in the sunlight. Thanks for sharing a cicada moment ๐Ÿ˜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jen! That’s crazy – I’ve not personally experienced that level of cicada. What a thought! I’ve read stories about the 17 and 13 year cicadas in the southern US ruining outdoor concerts and weddings. I was reading a bit about their biology and they are simply incredible creatures.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Claudia! Cicadas go on the list of “summer things I learned about as an adult” along with fireflies and summer thunder storms (why would it rain in the summer?!? It’s supposed to rain in the winter.) Ah, a Southern California childhood ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m laughing. All these things I have so deep in me from my earliest memories and then I find they are not universal??? Once again and at this late date I find myself having my eyes opened…

        Like

Comments are closed.