It’s mid-August and the cicadas have taken refuge in the big oaks in my yard, having dug their way out of the hard earth below. As the sun sets each evening these homely red-eyed creatures sing their songs in the heat and humidity of summer.
This seems to be a light year in the cicada cycle, not as noisy as years past but still loud enough to shake the calm still air each night. I don’t understand or keep up with the cicada cycles. I know that there have been years when the sound is deafening and trunks of our trees and the sides of our brick house are littered with hundreds of exoskeletons.
There is nothing glamorous about a cicada. It’s not pretty, soft or cuddly. It is just a big bug, with big bug wings and big bug eyes. It does do one cool trick, it gets a new skin, a new identity, a new self much like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon only better.
I certainly have days that I would like a new identity. I get tired of mine from time to time and the responsibilities attached to it. The sameness, the monotony grows old. That’s not to say I haven’t changed over the last 50 years. I certainly have less hair, more pounds and a lot more room in my skin than I did when I was 20.
If I could emerge from my current exoskeleton who would I become, a rock star, a movie star, a professional athlete? I guess the bigger questions are what would I lose and what would I gain with this sudden transformation. It’s funny when I look in the mirror I don’t see a middle-aged man with a receding hairline. A man whose jet black curly hair has given way to tightly trimmed gray stubble with a chin that is now plural. What I see is a man who has lived a life in this shell, a shell and soul that as the poet William Butler Yeats says is, “fastened to a dying animal”. It has served me well.
Sure, I would like to be Keith Richards for a day or maybe even George Clooney but would I shed my exoskeleton for theirs? Would I give up my family, my past, and my future for a life unfamiliar, a skin untested. Would you?