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Songs of Summer

This katydid rode on my car for hours and hours one day.

The other night I heard the katydids singing for the first time this summer. I love them. I adore their clackety Katy Did, Katy Didn’t song. Well, it’s not actually singing but the rubbing together of two parts of their wings, a comblike part and another part that vibrates. But still, the males are calling for mates. And lucky me, it will be cool enough tonight that I can keep my windows open and have them sing me to sleep.

I am also very much enamored of cicadas, with their crescendo/diminuendo choruses, followed by many measures of silence. Filling in, the clackety-clack of katydids. And behind all of this, the steady hum of crickets. Throw in some peepers and other frog songs and you have a beautiful summer evening symphony. Love love love. The music of summer is one of my very favorite things about the season.

My notebook for noticing.

In writing this, which I thought would just be my musings about the evocative sounds of summer, I thought I’d read up a little about katydids. And now I am learning many things. For example, I’ve just read that the number of chirps katydids make per second varies with the temperature of their surroundings, so much so that one can get a fairly accurate temperature reading by counting the number of chirps they make. In America, the formula is: the number of chirps/15 seconds, plus 37 equals the temperature. Fascinating!

Katydids live for less than a year and it’s just now that they mate so the females can lay eggs in late summer. Here in Missouri, only the eggs can survive the winter. I’ve noticed that the adults don’t sing for all that long, either, which makes them particularly special to me.

I find katydids beautiful, too. Sleek and brilliant green, with their long wavy antennae, they are much prettier than grasshoppers could ever dream of being, and much less startling. They don’t hop crazily without warning, like grasshoppers. Katydids sort of fly/leap. Grasshoppers are rather unsettling, I feel. And they don’t sing nicely.

One year, I kept notes in a little planner about what was happening in my little corner of the natural world. I noted down the time of sunrise/sunset, high/low temperature for the day, rain/snow, etc., what was blooming or dying and when I first heard peepers, crickets, cicadas, and katydids. It would be nice to know when exactly they stop singing, but that has always escaped me.

The minutiae of life is what enriches it, I feel, especially in the natural world, which we take for granted. I remember once being rapturous about the first peepers I’d heard that summer and the person I was with said, “They’re just frogs,” hinting that I was a bit off my rocker. But life is what you make of it, and I say, why not celebrate these things, if you can? Why not love them? Why not?

“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle

“Be the celebrators, celebrate! Already there is too much—the flowers have bloomed, the birds are singing, the sun is there in the sky—celebrate it! You are breathing and you are alive and you have consciousness; celebrate it!” – Osho

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. And if you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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