The early advent of Spring has brought with it a curious phenomenon. This is one of those seasons in which cicadas, their long years underground finally at an end, emerge in their thousands to fill the trees with their deafening chorus. It is a sound that many of us associate with Christmas holidays and long, summer days at the beach; evoking endless sunshine and balmy nights.
But something is wrong. Among the scores of nymph shells are many small bodies trapped between two worlds, frozen in death before life has truly begun. For some, emergence is almost complete while others have barely broached the armour enclosing their soft bodies.
Among the survivors, the weakest stagger drunkenly on the ground, unwilling or unable to fly. I rescue them and hide them in the trees; perhaps they will gain in strength if left in safety for a while.
It is too early. The unseasonable warmth has driven them from the ground and yet they seem unready. Their singing is desultory; one day the air vibrates with ten thousand tiny tymbals – the next it is hushed. The climate is changing and the smallest of creatures, whose life-cycles we take so much for granted, offer warning signs.
Days later the survivors, in their thousands, perhaps millions, settle into the rhythm of song. The stragglers have disappeared, eaten by birds or consumed by armies of small, black ants.
This morning the song is deafening, almost painful in its intensity.
But as I walk around the garden, still I find the unborn ones, half in-half out of their nymph-cases, enormous heads protruding from the shells while the soft bodies remain encased.
This season of cicadas reminds me most powerfully of two important aspects of life, aspects which are inevitably intertwined.
The effect we have on the environment with our careless use of the earth’s resources will see far -reaching consequences. Unless we heed the warnings of our insect friends, there will come a time when none can sing, nor insect, nor bird, nor human.
I am reminded also of the spiritual journey; of the seasons when we are strong, emerging into wholeness from our fallow times; of the disorientation we can feel if we move too quickly along the path and the need to seek shelter while we integrate what we have experienced; and lastly, of the way in which too cerebral an approach can abort the process entirely, or leave us with a disembodied spirituality that neglects our humanity and, ultimately, the world in which we live.