A certain yuck factor accompanied this spring's emergence of a gazillion cicadas in parts of the Eastern US. After 17 years of feeding on root fluids underground, the insect nymphs emerged and swarmed on lawns, pavement, and trees. Their molted skeletons crunched underfoot. When the winged insects died, their stench made nostrils flare.
But now that their deafening drone has ceased in many areas, a bit of nostalgia has set in. Even those who were grossed out by the plump bugs, which flew like drunken pilots, have to agree they provided a welcome break from routine, and brought people together.
Neighbors swapped cicada stories, speculating about why one side of the street had more of the insects than the other side (clue: the sun). Their junior-scientist children became avid collectors. Some turned into entrepreneurs, sweeping cicada debris for $10 an hour.
More than kids turned a buck on the back of a cicada. The Ritz Carlton in Washington sold out of its cicada chocolates. And Occoquon Bible Church in Virginia raised $3,200 by hosting an eat-a-thon of breaded and sauteed cicadas.
Newspapers delved into the philosophical meaning of Brood X, as this cicada generation is called. The brood was envied for its obliviousness to Iraq, the US election, and kids' soccer schedules. It provided a humbling hint that humans can't control everything. And the cicadas spoke to the dedicated purpose of regeneration.
Most missed may be their buzz, a sound akin to UFOs in old sci-fi flicks. Stepping outside, one knew something bigger than oneself was at work. But it shouldn't take 17 years to remember that.