Cicadas were not something I had to deal with growing up in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve experienced a few swarms since moving to DC in 2007, but this May marks my first rodeo with the 17 year Brood X. I am equally repulsed and charmed by their imminent return. I am repulsed because insects are icky and I do not like loud things flying at my head. I am charmed because I believe we have much to learn from these quirky little creatures.
Seventeen years is a long time to wait in darkness. I would come out from the ground singing, too. In the era of Amazon Prime, we have become accustomed to getting what we want, exactly when we want it. Cicadas remind me that some things simply can’t be rushed. In a culture that likes everything neat and orderly, even down to round numbers, the arbitrary nature of a 17-year cycle pushes back. I secretly think, why not 20 years? Or at least 15?
Brood X challenges our need to create order in a poetically chaotic world. In a time where we are often disconnected from our ancestors, the ancient cicada, mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and across civilizations, reminds me of how interconnected we really are. Cicadas are so old that the Latin word for Cicada is…wait for it…Cicada. If we are very lucky, we will witness five Brood X occasions in our life time.
Last but not least, in a world that tells so many of us to sit down and be quiet, cicadas are here to get this party started. There is no shame in their game, and I love/hate them for it. In honor of Brood X’s re-emergence, I’ve re-written the lyrics to “How Can I Keep From Singing?” to celebrate the coming swarm. I hope you’ll sing along.
My life began two thousand four
X Brood abomination
Mother laid me in a branch
A sev’nteen year creation
Through all the seasons dark and light
I thought my ears were ringing
When I finally did emerge
How can I keep from singing?
All those years spent underground
For just one month of glory
What say thee, my fellow nymphs?
Let’s live to tell our story
No pesticide can deter me
I am God’s creating
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from mating?
I raise my wings, so do my friends
We are all one in song
And day by day, the humans swat
Hoping we will not be long
The peace of trees makes fresh my heart
New generations forming
For all the days spent in God’s earth
How can I keep from swarming?
Now it is time, to lay my eggs
I hear death’s bell ringing
I’ll see you soon, in thirty-eight
How can I keep from singing?
Looking to the month ahead, we have plenty of cicada-free events to partake in. Join us for a coffee hour conversation with Jubilee Housing this Sunday, May 9, after church. You are invited to join the FaithLife group 5:30 PM on May 9, for a discussion on Millennials and the Church. The Arts & Culture group will meet Monday May 10 to discuss the art of Alma Thomas, a 20th century African American teacher and artist of the Washington Color School who lived and worked in Washington, DC. We continue to host Tuesday yoga and Wednesday meditation, both open to all.
Questions to Ponder:
How do you praise all creatures great and small?
What might you learn from Brood X cicadas?
Where do you see cycles of nature in your own life?
In peace and community and cicada songs,