Friday, August 10, 2007

The Metamorphosis

Today, after going to the dentist, Richie was sad. It was his last appointment to have cavities filled.

For him, a trip to the dentist is like Christmas and Halloween and cotton candy all rolled up in one.

"I could go to the dentist all day long!" he exclaimed on our way to his morning appointment.

What can I say? I do my best to arrange fun-filled activities for the boys. There's the dentist, the bank, and, well, I can't think of anything else.

To cheer Richie up and wear out the two hyperactive ones, we went to a Prairie Village park nearby.

Cicada shells were under every tree. Johnny collects these...and forgets them all over the place. My mom found a stash on a package she was mailing and it scared her half to death.

You might have gathered these bug shells as a kid, too. You a. used them to scare your brother, b. wore them as decorations on your shirt, c. dared people to eat them, or d., if you were bored (because of a shortage of trips to the dentist,) did all three.

In the Midwest, when it gets really hot, the buzzing of cicadas is so constant that we can't even hear them anymore.

When it grows especially deafening, news people say they're the rare 17-year cicadas. "This is quite a treat," they say. "Listen carefully; it won't happen again for quite some time."

They say this every year.

But as much as we hear these bugs, we rarely see them because they are masters of disguise. The young are covered in dirt from living underground. When they emerge, they're the color of bark, which is where they hang out until their metamorphosis. Then, emerging the color of new leaves, they crawl to the treetops.

Today, however, we got a peak at their life cycle:

Johnny was walking around, picking empty cicada shells off trees. He sat down on a bench to take a break.

"There's one, John," Richie said, holding a Cinnabun inches from his lips, waiting for his mouth to stop being numb from the filling.

Richie was pointing under the bench, where a shell lay...moving its legs?

"What!?" Johnny said, jumping up from his seat. "It's moving? What?! What?!"

He bent down to pick it up. As he held it, wriggling in his hand, he danced up and down and yelled, "It's aliiiive! It's aliiiiivewhoaja!"

He was so excited, he wasn't even making sense. It would be like if a stamp collector suddenly came across a stamp that was, well, alive.

Judging by the dirt caked on the cicada, it had just crawled out from underground, where, Johnny guessed, it had been attending college.

Not on an academic scholarship, though. This "college graduate" didn't know a tree from a slab of concrete. Or a shoe. It crawled from the ground to Johnny's sandles. Then his shirt, his arms, his face...Finally, Johnny put it on a tree.

The mother ship.

Within minutes, a green line appeared on the cicada's back. It widened and widened until, half an hour later, a head emerged from the shell. Then it took a break.

Johnny and Richie commented that the metamorphosis was taking for. ev. er.

"If I was a cicada, I would break out of the shell in, like, three seconds," Johnny said.

Would you now? I thought. I suppose you don't remember a little something called YOUR BIRTH. You were in no hurry for those nine going on ten months.

While we stood there, staring at the tree, several people walked their dogs or jogged by. They looked at us, as if wondering, "What are they staring at?" and moved on, as if to say, "Ah, yes. They are staring at the tree."

Johnny exclaimed, "These people walking by don't even see what's happening!"

Further up the tree, another cicada wriggled out of it's shell and crawled to the treetop, slowly at first, and then faster. We saw a trail of cicada shells leading up to the leaves and in them.

Higher up, the cicadas were chirping loudly--the males' mating call. It was like a big party up there. Only where were the broads? That's what the bugs were wondering, anyway.

Before the cicada we found got its wings out of its shell, the boys, who have gotten very impatient in their old age, said, "Let's go."

Later, we went back to the park to see if the cicada had emerged yet. But nothing was there. Not even an empty shell.

"Well, I guess it made it to the party," Richie said.

I guess that's the point for these creatures. They don't bite. They fly, but not quickly. They're not scared of people or animals. Camouflage is their only defense. They prefer to be heard, not seen. Unless you're looking for them, it's like they're not even there.

I hope that a dog or bird didn't eat it. I guess we'll never know. Except that, in the treetops, the cicada song sounded just a little bit louder.


Anonymous pat said...

That's so wonderful that they find such delight in nature. You're training them well!

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again a great story.I love how you have patience and take the time to let them experience one of life's little happenings.You are a great Mom. Keep up the good work.


1:25 PM  

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