They have been gone for seventeen years. I suppose it’s unkind of me to say that I haven’t missed them much. Their appearance marks the passing of time and reminds me of my age. I was a small child playing in the gravel on the banks of a lake with my brother and another little boy when I first saw one. Although, I can no longer remember that little boy’s name, or even the name of the lake we were playing by, I can still remember in vivid detail the creature’s black skin, the red eyes, and the transparent wings. My exclamation that day was much the same as my daughter’s when she saw her first one this week. “What is that??”
“That,” is a periodic cicada, or as we know them, a seventeen year locust. This week my front yard is inundated with them. They are hanging on the flowers, hanging on the trees, crawling across the porch, and leaving their little shells behind them. I would be freaked out if I didn’t know how very gentle they are. My biggest fear is stepping on them.
Every seventeen years they crawl out of the ground, shed their skin, find a mate, lay their eggs and die. Those eggs hatch into larva, which drop to the ground and crawl back in. Where they go once they return to the soil is a mystery to me. I have cared for my flower beds for ten years and never dug up one.