Day 27, August 20th: cicadas!

Greenhouse gas emissions (CO2eq): 1,994 kilos
Sigurðar saga fóts: 130/252

So back on Day 16, me and Dutchman are walking down some leafy street in The Annex and he’s, like, what do you think that sound is? And I tune in to a sound that I’ve been distantly aware of for a while, and recognise the hum of one of the metro trains in Helsinki winding up its motor before it gets into gear. Realising, however, that I am neither in Helsinki nor on the metro, I’m, like, ‘It’s the tram’.

But even as I say it, I’m looking around in sudden confusion, realising that there are no more trams in sight than metro trains. ‘That’s what everyone thinks at first’, says the Dutchman. ‘It’s cicadas.’ Cicadas! Cicada is the sort of word that I’ve read but never heard. You know, it’s probably in The Grapes of Wrath or something. ‘And they ate their side-meat and peaches and soon all you could hear was the clinking of the plates and the singing of the cicadas.’ I thought it was pronounced [‘sɪkədəz], but it turns out that it’s [sɪ’kɛɪdəz] (if you’re the Dutchman), or [sɪ’kɑːdəz] (if you’re the Sceptical Ex-pat’s husband M).

And yeah, away up in the tops of trees you hear this electrical buzzing, kind of whirring away all the time, but with one tree or another falling out of the chat from time to time and other trees chiming in. It’s like being on Mars or something. Only with life-forms. It’s really loud, so I thought there must be, like, choruses of them, but the Dutchman’s, like, no, it’s just one per tree and they’re really loud. Of the cicadas listed at the University of Michigan Cicadas of Michigan page (every university must have one), the Toronto ones sound least unlike the Tibicen canicularis. And then in Chicago they sound different! (More like the Tibicen pruinosus.) And I’d imagined that cicadas were basically the same thing as crickets or grasshoppers, but they’re not at all, they seem to be sort of like flies or moths.

The Sceptical Ex-pat’s husband M was sceptical that one cicada can make so much noise, so in the dusk of Day 27, we set off to the leafy grounds of Northwestern University to find a tree which we could climb to hunt for cicadas. Most of the trees were very tall and looked too hard to climb, but eventually we found an easy one, and M indeed observed a cicada, leaping from one leaf to another, there in the wild! I missed it, but it really does look like there’s one per tree. Spacy!

And in the dusk we saw these two red birds sparring with each other—turns out they were red cardinals—and there I am looking at them being impressed with their redness and their sparring, when suddenly I’m like, blimey, there are sparks! Where are they coming from? Surely not the steely clash of red cardinal beaks? Or is some invisible lurker tapping the ash from his cigarette? And the sparks were fireflies! Which are flies which fly around with a little amber LED hanging off them, which they flick on and off from time to time to show that their hard disk is working. They were amazing!


About alarichall
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2 Responses to Day 27, August 20th: cicadas!

  1. The Dave says:

    Cyberpunk flies – splendid! Could you hack into it’s hard drive and reconfigure it’s wetware so that it will spy for you and bite people you don’t like with a little cybernetic stingy-thing?

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