The Privileged Life: Cicada Song and Coronavirus

“The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me—a prayer to the God of my life.” Psalm 42:8

As I write this, the late-summer sun drizzles its last rays down a glassy goblet of sky behind darkened trees. Up swells the concerto of nocturnal creatures beyond my screen door—birdsong, froggy ribbits, and canine disputes. A coal train rumbles past in the distance, adding bass to the mix. The strings section of crickets strums a soothing blend of chirps as darkness closes in around us.

One of the soloists in this symphony, with its repetitive refrain, is the annual cicada. Hidden in a maple in our front yard, this brownish-green insect chants a rhythmic, melancholy percussion that waxes and wanes. Where it leaves off, its peers take up the antiphonal response from other yards across the street.

The cicada has one of the loudest insect calls on record—a group of males in unison can reach 100 decibels. The eerie sound is created as each insect buckles and unbuckles hard plates along its abdomen in rapid fire. Here’s a sample:

Its summer-long song heralds its triumphant but brief appearance on earth after trudging underground as a nymph, a preparation that lasts anywhere from one year to nine or more. In its final season, it splits open the back of its brown shell, and a glittering creature emerges to spend its few months of adulthood on wing…to “sing,” mate, and then expire with the advent of cold winter…a true swan song indeed. 

Some cicadas take even longer to develop. The colorful magicicadas of North America come out in vast numbers at irregular seasons, 13 to 17 years, but their arrival is unmistakable. Brittle shells litter the ground under trees where dirt is pocked with holes. Their deafening, whirring roar greets us during peak days like sci-fi sound effects of an alien spaceship—clearly audible even through closed car windows on an expressway drive. We’re due for another mass invasion next year in our region. 

Cicadas have quite an intimidating appearance—shuddering wings, clawed limbs, wide-set eyes, and a fearsome expression. Some of the magicicadas have fiery red eyes. But they’re all quite harmless…gentle giants of the bug world that inspire stories and capture our imagination. 

As I ponder their long life cycle, there are parallels to this unusual year. Cicadas are oblivious to coronavirus. And yet their patient preparation for life begins in a “shutdown” mode, sequestered in a beetle-like shell and cut off from the rest of the world. When the time is right, these determined little critters rise up from their root-bound life, bravely surface into blinding sunlight, and rip off the old tattered crust. They fly.

I am so hopeful that we will have this same persistence right now—to patiently endure this unpleasant season full of fear, disappointment, suffering, and loss. While we wait in the dark, not knowing when the pandemic will ebb, let us fix our eyes on the One who holds us in His care. And when this longstanding crisis has passed, may we rise up from bleakness into the brilliant colors of joy that He has waiting for us. 

If you have the privilege of hearing a cicada in these waning days of warm weather, close your eyes and listen to its hypnotic, raspy lovesong. Like so many other amazing creatures, it shares its God-given talents with the rest of us. Let it remind you that we, too, can sing in a great chorus of praise swelling upward to our Lord in heaven. Let its message give us hope that soon, we will fly, too.

Gracious Father, Creator of all life, thank You for the privilege of listening all of your creatures praising You. You have fearfully and wonderfully made us as well. Grant us patience to endure these pandemic days, and with Your guidance, let us emerge on the other side with victory and joy—even as we will one day shed our earthly skins to become new creatures in Your heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

An empty annual cicada shell…like a miniature Star Wars monster
My son, Alex, and daughter, Elizabeth, admiring the magicicadas that abundantly populated their schoolyard in 2004
No fear!

#theprivilegedlife #lightbournecreative #thankful #privileged #gratitude #abundantlife #Christianprivilege #theprayerlife #coronavirusendurance #cicada #magicicada #lovesong #insectlove #entomologistsdream #cicadasong #cicadalifecycle #cicadashell #17yearcicada #resurrection© Copyright 2020 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative

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