Welcome Back, Normal Life

The weather here in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia has finally warmed up and I have been spending time on our back deck, tending to my flower boxes and my vegetable and herb container garden, and serenaded by the distant cicada spaceship chorus, and the ever-increasing sound of the close-in singers who have synched up in their search for mates.

I wrote earlier about my anticipation of the Brood X emergence and I am happy to say that after feeling a bit anxious that we wouldn’t see or hear them, they have been putting on an incredible sound show. When they first emerged en masse, Magicicada septendecim began chorusing, making this spooky spaceship sound all around:

A few days later you can hear the spaceship is still hovering, but you can also hear the rasping of Magicicada cassini, and the tick-tick-tick of Magicicada septendecula:

Two days later, the Magicicada cassini chorus, the dominant species in this area (although the septendecim are more numerous), got their act together. I measured a peak sound of 98 decibels that hot, sunny afternoon:

I knew they had a 100+ decibel reading in them, and a few days later they proved me right:

We had 5”+ of rain over the last few days, and they were noticeably quieter. But when the sun returned they were back on point, singing at 95 decibels. And yes, you can hear them inside, with the windows closed.

The cats are interested in the cicadas. Our male cat Finn knocked one down, and put it into his mouth and brought it inside. He is a weird cat because he does not bite his prey. Then again he’s big and strong enough to kill stuff with his paws alone. The cicada began buzzing and Finn was very annoyed because he hates noise. Then the cicada began walking toward Finn’s throat and Finn had had enough with this noisy sharp-edged toy, and he spit it out. That hasn’t cured him of trying to catch another one, of course. Rey doesn’t find their clumsiness to be much of a challenge and she has largely ignored them after her initial bout of excitement.

I’ve really enjoyed this twice in a lifetime (for me) event. God willing, we’ll be settled in a sunny spot in the Keys the next time Brood X starts singing. I am also very aware of how this event dovetails with the end of a once in a century event as the pandemic begins to wind down here in the United States.

My county has ticked back and forth on the Harvard Covid map from “orange” to “yellow” to “orange” and back again because the difference between “vaccinated” and “unvaccinated” is confusing to people who want to take their oh-so-oppressive masks off. I thought about going without one at the grocery store the other day but decided against it, and someone sailed past me coughing the croupiest cough I have heard in a very long time, and I remembered that the law of unintended consequences is a double-edged sword.

The online community I am active in has several ongoing Covid conversations, and they are almost entirely driven by conspiracy nuts and deniers. You would think they’d be happy about states lifting all restrictions, right?

Of course they’re not. They’re obsessed with people who are still wearing masks. Every day 1 of them has to wonder anew about why people are still wearing masks, despite being repeatedly given the reasons:  small children at home, compromised immune system, their doctor wants them to have additional protection because of an underlying medical issue, they live with or care for someone in one of the previous categories, or they have been traumatized by the illness or death of someone close to them, or their own close call with death and Covid. Or they could just be still adjusting to post-Covid life and mourning the death of 600,000 Americans.

I asked one of them why he cared that someone he didn’t know did something  which had zero effect on his life, and he didn’t answer. It’s not about “trusting the science” for these people. It’s about bullying other people because they themselves were frightened for those dark months and they want all traces of that fright erased. Well, too bad for them, because not only am I going to continue to wear a mask in places where I will be exposed to a lot of people and thus to the common cold and other communicable diseases, I like to be a thorn in the side sometimes, and wearing a mask seems to be a super easy way to do that. (Those of you who know me in real life can attest to that.)

Masked or not, like the cicadas, I have emerged from isolation. I am back to in-store shopping, and seeing friends. My parish has resumed in-person worship, and our bishop okayed the return of my beloved choir (provided we are all masked and vaccinated), and that weekly outing has brought a lot of normalcy back to my life.

My husband is dealing with an injured knee so we’re not back to eating out just yet, but that will change soon enough, and I CANNOT WAIT to eat a hot meal I didn’t have to cook myself. My sense of humor is slowly returning and I actually can stop worrying for part of every day.

I’m back to visiting my town’s wonderful farmers market and having that community time again, reaffirming old friendships made there, and getting to know new people and finding common ground with them after not walking through the market for a year.

All of these little things add up to what Serbian people call “merak”, or contentment bolstered and fueled by small pleasures that make you feel connected to the universe. It’s a good place to be in June 2021. Joy be with you all.

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