When the World Opens Its Heart to My Ears, Cicadas and All: Everyday Magic, Day 979

It has been a time out of time, or perhaps more accurately, a time landed right in time. Unable to use my eyes as much, I realize how most of my waking hours are encompassed in seeing. Like Dracula, I also have to forgo direct sunlight and generally aim my days toward deep shade. Add to this the pain (thankfully very much receding!) of this eye cancer odyssey, and I burrow deeper into the dark, so far from my regular natural habitat. But there’s nothing like pain and healing to guide an anxious mind out of its usual hamster cycles and into the real.

For a writer who loves reading, movies, watching James Corden Cross-walk theater videos, and visually scanning the world for so much of my orientation, this has also been a deal. But for all ills, there are remedies, and the best one I discovered is to go outside about 8:30 p.m. each night to the chartreuse padded chair Daniel once got at a thrift store for his first college dorm room, and sit still on the night porch as dusk travels to dark. It’s taken a while for me to stop resisting what this body has been telling me lately in no uncertain terms: shut up, and close your eyes already. But when I do, the rewards are immense.

In July, twilight comes calling with a cast of thousands. Sitting out there last night with Ken, my eyes closed for an hour, we counted at least six different kinds of cicadas, starting with the low soft click of the green winged cicada, then the back and forth mild buzzsaw of Tibicen bifidus. Eventually, we got to the steady sweet roar of the plains cicada, a sound I describe as he wheels of a wagon moving across the prairie although the wheels, spokes, and wagon are made of cicadas, and of course, the wagon is hauling cicadas. (If you want to hear these and others, check out this site).

Tree frogs leapt into the fray for short or long stretches, and of course, the crickets showed up as they always do when it comes to getting any party started. These thousands of insects and amphibians not only coordinated their wild rushes into circle hums or steady chirps of green joy with their fellow specie comrades, but they also blended their sounds — something beyond and encompassing the essence of music — altogether. The plains cicada stretched their journey song into multiple cycles, then stopped on a dime. The tree frogs jumped in the gap, then paused. Suddenly, everyone from all directions started again.

We listened, my dreams merging me with the sounds as I dosed in the chair. I wanted to lie down to sleep in the house, but Ken urged me to wait for the telltale call of night, heralded by the Katydid. “When will the Katydid start?” I asked, and just then, the Katydid whisper circled over us. “Listen carefully,” he said. “There are two Katydids,” which we quickly named Katy Did It and Katy Didn’t. (Hear Katydids here).

Back inside, I sat in the beautiful healing darkness, serenaded by the hum of the air-conditioner, the snore of the dog, the padded rush down the halls of the running of the cats. From outside, I can hear the barred owl calling. There’s also the drumming of my hands on the keyboard, writing this before I forget, mostly with my eyes closed while the world opens its heart to my ears.

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An Abundance of Cicadas, Hackberry Butterflies, and Rain: Everyday Magic, Day 853

IMG_4071So much comes so thick and fast sometimes, like this June when the 17-year cicadas hatched at the same time as the unleashing of thousands of hackberry butterflies. Walking from the car to the house, I have to close my mouth so a butterfly doesn’t zip in and avoid stepping on some of the dead cicadas, strangely enough, fed on by the butterflies. Meantime, the rain: a deluge so often that we’ve lost track of inches. Garden beds I weeded two weeks ago are buried in invader species, mosquitoes abound, and the rolling roar of the cicadas engulfs everything in the rising buzz.

IMG_4074Sometimes life is so outrageously abundant it’s hard to know what to do to keep some semblance of order or peace of mind. I clean the pantry, weeding out stale nuts and moth-invaded pancake mix. I bend over on the way to the car to pull weeds out of a small triangle of dirt where, a month ago I planted flowers now buried in green. I haul away stuff we don’t need anymore, only to return home to see so much growing and piling up inside and out while I bat away butterflies, walk through rain, and breathe in time with the cicadas.

Abundance shows itself in magic aIMG_4046nd delight too. This weekend, I went with friends to see Lily Tomlin live in Kansas City, all of us immersed in the rich dazzlement of her characters, the poignancy and humor of their stories, and her improvised jokes. I sang “Both Sides Now” and “You Are My Sunshine” with friends in an open-air out-building deep in the country with stand-up bass, guitar, accordion, hammer dulcimer, and of course, cicada accompaniment. I sat on this screened-in porch during a thunderstorm and listened to Pema Chodron, via my computer, talk about shenpa, what hooks us for the good and for the bad, and how we might try reacting differently next time to see what happens. I bought paddles for the kayaks we’re buying from friends and will bring home once and if it stops raining long enough. My work is rich, friendships full of humor and joy, and talks with Ken still surprising after all these years. Fawns walk close by, rabbits criss-cross each other’s paths, and everywhere, there’s birds singing happily of humidity and worms.

Not a very clear photo, but yes, foxes!
Not a very clear photo, but yes, foxes!

When there’s so much, there’s also so much opportunity for strange things to happen, some hooking us into joy (like seeing four foxes by the side of the road last night), and some hooking us into angst (like our water mysteriously stopping working this morning). Everyone I talk with has stories of strangeness to share, and through it all, cicadas, hackberry butterflies, and rain, reminding us to pay attention in a time when all comes at once.

So Friggin' Hot: Everyday Magic, Days 342-343

Ice water? Check. Sitting in front of air-conditioning with ceiling fan on high? Check, check. Bag of cold cherries? Happy check. Wearing as little as possible without embarrassing myself in public? Of course. One thing I’ve learned in my 32 Midwestern summers is how to get through summer, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain up one side of a hot wall and down another. Summers in Kansas are hot, and this summer, the heat is blasting in a few weeks earlier than usual, making me yearn for Thursday’s forecast (high of 88!). Of course, the closer it gets to 100, the lower the humidity usually gets too.

Complicating or aiding — hard to tell yet — my first intense encounter with the heat is also my first intense encounter with fly-by-night poison ivy and chiggers. Gentle readers who don’t know what the chigger is, I won’t destroy your innocence, but suffice to say that black flies, no-see-ums and mosquitoes have nothing on the chigger. In a sense, being in Kansas is like living with the Fire Swamps of The Princess Bride but instead of ROUS (Rodents of Unusual Size), quicksand and exploding fires, there’s chiggers, ticks and HOUP (Heat of Unusual Persistence). Walking out into the grass is a dangerous journey that will likely leave its mark on you for days to come.

Having been so marked, I’m now on steroids, which makes me both want to nap and run fast simultaneously, and buzzes my body in perfect tempo with the roaring cicadas (aren’t they early too?). The hotter it gets, the louder it gets: a.c., cicadas, movies we must watch to distract ourselves, and bags of ice we must hit with a hammer to break up. So I sit in the roaring echo of air and insect, my fingers wanting to type twice as fast as usual and my mind craving only cool water, and remind myself that sometime soon — maybe 4 a.m. — it will drop down to the 70s, and if I wake (likely, given the drugs I’m on), I will step outside and breathe in the moment of non-sauna living, then go back to sleep, dreaming of winter and preparing myself for the long stretch of summer.