Early afternoon: the dead time, I always think of it. A cicada is using the plank walls of my house as a resonator in lieu of a tree. It’s LOUD. But as soon as I go out with a camera and try to film him in action, he stops, like some sort of hyper-self-conscious poet.
Over the past few days, I’ve heard a couple different people mention “seven-year locusts.” More biblical influence, I suspect — things always come in sevens in the Bible. What the hell is seventeen? A number of no mythological significance whatsoever.
But maybe for us residents of the eastern United States, it should be. Isn’t making new myths an essential part of becoming native to a place? To me, the old stories about Persephone or Orpheus or Korach pale by comparison with the saga of the 17-year cicadas.
It’s not all cicadas here, though. On the powerline right-of-way, the lowbush blueberry bushes are blue with berries (is there any way to say that without sounding horribly redundant?) and the black raspberry canes around the houses are beginning to bear fruit — those that haven’t been grazed too heavily by deer.
One morning last week, I came out onto the powerline to find someone else there before me. “Hey, it’s a bear, eating up all my blueberries!” I shouted. Dad was using his walking stick to lower himself gingerly into a crouch, and was shoveling handfuls of berries into his mouth. So that’s what he uses that stick for! But who can blame him? Wild blueberries are definitely worth a painful descent.
Ten minutes later, climbing the ridge beyond the powerline, I saw a bear for real — one of the four yearlings wandering the mountain alone now that their mother has chased them off and (presumably) gone into estrus. It came ’round the bend in the trail and stopped. I had been standing there waiting for a singing black-throated blue warbler to get close enough to photograph. The bear and I blinked at each other for a few seconds. Then it headed off into the laurel at a gallop, before I could fully redirect my attention from the bird.
The very next moment, the warbler dropped down into a laurel bush right next to me, sang once, and flew off before I could turn my attention back to him. So, no photo of either one. My glacially slow reactions do make for memorable glimpses of things, though.
Last night I saw something I wished I’d been able to film in some way. Around ten till ten I took a walk up the mowed path through the field to the top of a bowl-shaped feature we call the amphitheatre, thinking I’d watch the fireflies. And it was quite a show: blinking, floating lights throughout the field and yard and into the treetops, all the way up the side of the wooded ridge. But what made it even more spectacular was the distant thunderstorm, visible but completely inaudible above the eastern horizon. Cloud-to-cloud lightning kept lighting up different fissures in the clouds (is there any way to say that without sounding redundant?) while the rest of the sky remained dark — and the equally silent fireflies flashed below.
Now I’m sitting out on the porch, fighting the dead time with strong tea and reading Richard Shelton’s Selected Poems for the hundredth time. A doe is grazing on the black currant bushes in the stream below the yard, and I notice with a mixture of disgust and pity that her back is black with deerflies. Her short tail swivels and her hide twitches constantly in a fruitless effort to shake them off. Watching her skin vibrate while the rest of her goes unhurriedly about her business puts me in mind of a belly-dancer, bedeviled by the crawling stares of her audience.
A fawn appears and shoves its muzzle between her hind legs. The two of them amble across the driveway, climb the bank and disappear into the woods.