Thirteen years

They have spent 13 years preparing for just a few weeks. Their species depends on it.

They are cicadas – and for those who don’t know (I sure as heck didn’t until a week ago), the inch-long bugs with red, beady eyes piercing through the South Carolina evenings and wings used only to complement that zombie-like stagger across porches and up trees are 13 years old. The thousands of cicadas we’re seeing today were born when I was a freshman in high school.

According to the Internet, which knows everything, they’ve been less than a foot underground feeding off tree roots and nutrients that have cared to join them. And, according to the Internet, they burrowed their way above ground – all million per acre, they say – practically simultaneously.

Their mission? Find their way to a tree top and shed their exoskeleton, whereupon they’ll let out a semi-constant (it comes and goes, I’ve noticed) chorus of Amazon jungle-like noise … a mating call. They HAVE to find a female and do their business, so she can lay the seeds of their next generation.

And the cycle will continue.

Thankfully, that part’s out of the way. It was probably one-third as painful to read as it was for me to write. I hate that science crap. But it’s important to know in order to interpret what I’ve philosophized.

This entire week, I’ve met little more than disdain for the cicadas. Facebook posts. Co-workers’ complaints. A thought or two from myself, even, suggesting these bugs are a nuisance. First they came from underground, crawled up our car tires, affixed themselves to our clothing and hair, and mauled our gardens, then – yes, it gets more vulgar – began making their noise. Their piercing, eerie noise. Can they be any more annoying? How about creepy – can they be any worse?

Hold on, though. These insects are a phenomenon. Thirteen years. Think about it. The Twin Towers were still up. Gas cost $1.04 per gallon. “Titanic” had just come out. That was when the cicadas we’re seeing today were born.

They’ll all be dead in another week or so. There must be a life lesson to be inferred. Right?

There is. If you think about it, cicadas live arguably the most common “words of wisdom” our parents, grandparents and literature have to offer: make the most of your time here. These giant bugs have a matter of weeks to essentially do what many humans can’t do in 80 years – find love.

Okay, so it’s not love the cicadas are looking for, but humor me. They must attract the opposite gender and mate, or their species ceases to exist. There’s truly no time to waste. Talk about making the most of your days on this Earth.

Furthermore, the cicadas are also walking, fluttering and singing time capsules.

I have to wonder what the world will be like the next time we see them here in S.C. More specifically, I wonder what my world will be like in 13 years, assuming God’s gracious enough to keep me alive that long. The next time I see the cicadas, I hope to have a “traditional” family for Kalista, including a wife/mother. I hope I’ll have enough money saved for Kalista to attend college without her having to contemplate how she’ll pay for it, and I hope the happiness I‘ve recently discovered has blossomed into a constant, nearly innate part of our lives.

Kalista will be 18 the next time she sees cicadas.

I hope she’ll want to go to college by then. I hope she’ll love her mother. I hope she’s learned – or at least started to learn – what makes people happy in life is not college or things she does not have, but time with those who love her. I hope she strives for this time when she sees cicadas again.

The cicadas themselves, I have seen this week, are nothing to be fond of. They are scaly, messy and visually unappealing. It’s their journey that’s beautiful – one that reeks of persistence, commitment and devotion to companions.

I hope Kalista appreciates cicadas the next time she sees them.

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