Cicada Year. After 17 years of waiting around, members of the genus Magicicada emerge en masse from underground, shed their skin, mate, and die, all within the span of a few weeks in late spring/early summer. 2013 is the year for Brood II, the group in the greater NY/NJ area.
17 years is a long time; the way they throw their heads back, stretch their wings, and signal victory (see fig. 9-13 above, also this youtube video) is not unlike that one part in The Shawshank Redemption.
In 1996, the last Cicada Year, I was a freshman in high school in suburban New Jersey. I was nearing the end of a semester in which I took Biology for the first time – a class which I loved, and I didn’t so much love as tolerate classes in high school. When the cicadas emerged, we marched out to the woods behind the “new” building (usually more the domain of weed smoking than science) to observe and collect them as a class - as much an excuse to go outside as an impromptu lesson. We then, of course, killed and dissected them, because that’s just What You Do in Freshman Bio, Damn It, opportunistically or no.
I remember the sounds of their mating calls pulsing from the trees through the end of that school year. Their discarded exoskeletons would crunch under my feet as I crossed driveways and parking lots, the early summer heat reflecting back in waves from the asphalt. Dads would point leafblowers at them, herding them into neat piles in corners. Dead ones did lazy laps in crappy above-ground pools, backlit by aqua colored light. They were everywhere, and I guess they will be again. They’ve probably earned it.
Hello old friends, I knew your parents.