I remember the magnificent sound of the cicadas came in waves, unescapable even from indoors. In my youth I would walk in my neighborhood and be confused about what time I was living in. It was like being transported to the Mezozoic Era when heat and humidity nourished soupy swampy life.
Behind the curtain of trees that marked the boundary of my yard, there was a path. This paved path meandered through forest which couldn’t decide whether it was a swamp or not. In the summer, thick hairy vines of poison ivy thrived on tulip poplars, oak, and sycamore, extending menacing flights of three leaved branches up hundreds of feet into the sky. I couldn’t help but contemplate the unthinkable pain these plants could inflict, looking peaceful enough and happy on the trees. With the rains, the land flanked by the path and Rock Creek became submerged. The trees looked so strange emerging from water. Though I fantasized about exploring the forest with a canoe, the water was never more than six inches deep, and where was I going to get a canoe?
Every seventeen years. The cicadas’ arrival inevitably led me to think about where I would be when their children returned. Looking forward into the future, seventeen years feels longer than looking back. And why seventeen years? What is so magic about that number? How did that happen?
I ask the same question of my life now. How did this happen? I have since moved to a part of California where no land confuses itself for a swamp. Instead, dry, sun-baked red earth complements vibrant green from citrus and fig, and the sky is punctuated with majestic looking palms and gravity-defying cypress. I have a beautiful family, a daughter, and luckily I didn’t have to wait seventeen years to meet her. I work for a company I love and will soon be packing for a trip to represent this company at a meeting in Sweden. I don’t know how it happened. I could not have anticipated it. I am grateful.
Life is strange, diverse, magical and arbitrary.