Sunday, September 5, 2010

End of Summer Sounds

synaesthesia: successful in my quest for a painting
that looks like the sound of cicadas

Back in July, while reading poetry one evening, I came across the following evocative, timely image of the impending sound of summer . . .

" . . . Urgently
but languidly, oblivious to predators, seventeen-year
cicadas throb and throb and throb, hollow bodies
...and tympanum and the seventeen-year wait, clinging
to tree roots and feeding on nothing but the clear fluids,
waiting to find just the perfect mate among the many millions.
They seem so alike to us, these brood-ten cicadas, but
they have their passionate dreams and so filled with hope,
a lesson to me. . . . "

from the poem "Cyclic"
in Why We Have Evening
by Leonard Orr (Contemporary American writer, artist, educator)

. . . and the very next day one of my facebook friends posted this description of his fascinating mid-summer experience:

"Last night, I watched a cicada climb out of the ground and prepare to become the large and loud flying insect that takes over summer. I just kept thinking...this thing has been in the ground for anywhere from 2-17 years and I get to see it emerge. How cool is that! I have only seen the empty exoskeleton they leave behind." [Thanks Chandler Poole!]

At the time, I noted the coincidence of reading a cicada poem one day, a cicada post the next. Encountering the two references in two days heightened my awareness of the cicada cycle taking place right outside my door, filling the air night after night.

And now, six week later, as fall starts to overtake summer, the cicada song remains as insistent as ever! A few days ago, turning the calendar from August to September, I thought to myself, "Well, it still sounds like summer!"

Then last night, along came another notable coincidence, from the most unlikely source -- a work of historical fiction, Desperadoes by Ron Hansen (American novelist, essayist, and professor; b 1947). Though I'm not a regular fan of cowboys or outlaws or the wild, wild west, I've always taken some interest in the notorious Dalton Gang -- only because I was born in their hometown of Coffeyville, Kansas, and spent many hours as a child begging my grandfather to take me to the museum and tell me all the tall tales -- but that's another story, another time.

Hansen's novel features a first person narrator, Emmett Dalton, the lone survivor, who provides every gory detail that you might rather not know, but also this lyric passage:

"It was near autumn but what we heard were summer noises: frogs at the river and crickets in the grass and cicadas rattling out of shells that looked like brown blisters on the trees. Night birds dived and swooped" (131).

No kidding! Emmett (or Hansen?) saw what I saw -- the approaching autumn -- but heard what I heard -- summer noises!

Paintings Above & Below by Leonard Orr


  1. "Isn't circadian rhythm a wonderful thing? On the days you don't need to be anywhere, it wakes you up regardless. And on work days, it does the same, usually about ten minutes late. I guess that's better than cicadian rhythm, which only wakes you up every 17 years."

  2. Thanks to Eric Schlene for above comment.