In June, Guy and I went to a place called Cherry Hill, near Ypsilanti Michigan, where the cicadas have climbed out of the ground, up trees, grasses and shrubs, shed their exoskeletons, unfolded beautiful wings to fly, find a mate, and then deposit their larvae into the ground again, and die.
They are seventeen. This happens over a two week period. This emergence, transformation, mating, birthing, and death happens every seventeen years, in the very same spot: a complete life cycle right there.
We are on the geographic edge of this phenomena. One cicada landed on our porch column, and faintly, their sounds were audible in the trees around us. Cherry Hill is closer to critical mass of cicadas, and as soon as we left our parked car there, we found fifty or sixty in adjacent shrubs, and their exoskeletons, and in flight around us.
What they are doing has nothing to do with us. It's happening in a way that is as systematic as a fleet of soldiers storming a beach on a life and death mission, intent on only one thing. They won't destroy crops or bite. The birds we saw were uncharacteristically slow, full after feasting.
I'm not sure what to say about this, except that there's something so direct and tender about this process. I wouldn't likely feel so forgiving if I lived right in the middle of the action where their sounds can get louder than 120 decibels - loud enough that you can't talk over their din. Seeing this literal evolution from gestating, to breaking through yourself, to unfolding new wings, to collaboratively making another life, and then to dying in all of its stages, nakedly, right there on the side of a honeysuckle bush, was pure and tender. And definitely a little sci-fi too.
Hannah Burr is a contemporary artist and author. Originally from Boston, she lives in Ann Arbor MI.