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  • Betty Girardeau

Something Some Of Us Take For Granted


The sounds of summer in the south...cicadas. Since most of my life has been spent in the south, I have never thought that much about this summer sound, especially that it might be unusual. But recently my daughter, who lives in California, mentioned how much she missed their chirping sounds. They had always been a soothing and special sound of summer for her. Until then I must admit that I had honestly taken their music for granted. I love it, too. I can close my eyes and listen, and I am immediately reminded of so many other summers, especially those of my childhood when air conditioning was a thing only enjoyed in movie theaters. Typically during our summer vacations in South Carolina and Virginia, adults and children alike would head out to the porch or yard after dinner in order remove themselves from the house that, on a hot day, had progressively become an Easy Bake Oven. Sometimes there were evening breezes or a random shower to help cool things off. But often the temperature change from the inside to the outside was only slightly different. At least outside there was space. There is something about being in an unairconditioned space in the summer that can feel especially claustrophobic. But getting outside, even on a hot night, feels somehow less so. Maybe it's because you feel like you can really breathe. Whatever it is, summer evenings outside were special back then. And to add to that was the music of the cicadas. They can be heard almost any summer, but 2020 is a special one. Cicadas, especially in the insect world, have a very long life span...17 years. We can hear them in the south every summer. But apparently this year is special. This summer something like 1.5 million 17 year cicadas per acre (also known as 17 year locusts) in the southern states of just Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina are expected to emerge for their 17 year mating ritual. And they can get pretty noisy while they are trying to attract the perfect mate. Of course, their chirpings are not just heard during the evenings. They are pretty busy trying to attract each other all day long, too. But you are more apt to have noticed them when your own day is slowing down and you have time to just immerse yourself in a special summer evening. As I write this now, inside my air conditioned cocoon of a house, I can't hear them at all. But I surely can if I go outside! There seems to be a pattern, too, in their chirping. It isn't constant. I have noticed that it rises and falls like a wave. And if you are really intent on listening, you almost feel like holding your breath waiting for the next wave of sound. This is the first time I have tried adding a video to my post, and I hope it works, especially for those of you in places where there are no cicadas, to hear and can't appreciate this special sound of summer in the south. So close your eyes and listen. Think of broad porches with rattan seating, maybe a swing, maybe even an overhead fan, certainly hand-held ones, the low voices of the adults talking, and remember happy childhood summers.

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