They are taking over. In the last couple of weeks, we have gone from seeing the first arrivals to the nearly constant hum of their increasing presence. Shells cling to trees and walls and expired insects litter the sidewalks. Once I saw a man late at night collecting them from his lawn using a lantern and a glass jar. I cannot imagine what he planned to do with them, and I’m not sure I really want to know.
So far, I haven’t found the cicadas annoying, just entertaining, and an unexpected occasion for reminiscing. I remember the last two occurrences of the 17-year cycle. Seventeen years ago we were living in Louisville as Jerry took a promotion with his company and we were starting a new life in a new place. The time before that I was a child spending a good part of the summer at my family’s cabin in the mountains, surrounded by old-growth forest and the sound of cicadas that was nearly deafening. Even though my parents sold that cabin a few years ago, in my memory I can still smell the warm dampness of the forest floor and the honeysuckle that grew at its edges.
Strange, isn’t it, how our memories are so keyed to the senses? A sound or sight or smell can suddenly take us back to another time and place. Many find worship to provide that kind of connection to the past. The texture of a small piece of bread and the taste of juice may call to mind times when you ate grapes right off the vine or bread right out of the oven. The smell of flowers in a vase may remind you of strolling in a garden the day before. The sound of great organ music or a choral anthem may draw you back to another time in this or some other church when God’s presence was nearly tangible and you knew you were loved. A baptism recalls the time of our own baptism, or that of a child or special person in our lives.
Worship moves us back and forth, connecting us with generations past, our own past, the current moment, and the future. This church building has now seen nine cycles of cicadas! To think of all that has gone on here in that time is mind boggling.
Even as we love reminiscing, we don’t stay in the past. Who could have imagined all the technological changes we’ve seen since the last cicada arrival seventeen years ago? No one can foresee what the world or our individual lives will be like seventeen years from now. Children we know will be grown; there will be new additions to our families; life-changing events will have occurred.
God’s world keeps turning around us. The seasons come and go; nature breathes new life each spring and goes to sleep in the fall; year follows year. Over all the decades of a human life, amid all the changes, God’s presence remains constant. It is the one thing on which we can rely in an ever-changing world. God calls us to remember the past; God moves us to be alive to the present; God points us to a future full of hope. May the call of the cicada remind us of the quieter call of God which carries us throughout our lives.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2008