We have storms here all the time, nearly weekly, especially in spring when the air is still in flux of changing from winter to summer. Occasionally we do have fierce thunderstorms, with these fronts, and sometimes, a tornado, sometimes with damage, but usually, not. And so we listened to these weather guys do their thing, and prepared for the usual despite their enthusiastic warnings of “Blah, blah, blah!”, and went about our merry way finishing the afternoon chores.
When I returned from afternoon feeding at the barn, I walked into the house and looked to the tv and saw where the effects of the storm were now being visible from sky cams across the state, and it was evident that this was no usual frontal line and this was not the ordinary spring storm. Already, they said, this storm had killed and destroyed many in its path in neighboring states. Cameras were suddenly switched to show a massive tornado which was in view courtesy of a remote sky cam, descending upon the town where Mark and I had been in college, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We watched in amazement as a giant, rapidly moving funnel swept over recognizable landmarks and obliterated them without a sound, blowing debris far and wide. It was a surreal event to watch, and then to realize that we were watching death happen, and destruction so massive as to not comprehend. It was a strange and helpless feeling to watch an event like this in real time, and be helpless to act. Just after this unprecedented, huge, tornado passed just south of the tall walls of Denny Stadium, that camera went dead.
Friends of ours called us from Tuscaloosa after the front had moved on that night, to tell us they had been missed and were ok, but they expressed the unbelievable destruction they witnessed with shock and dismay in their voices. The area we had spent so much time in, and the apartments where Mark had lived when we met, were simply gone, bull dozed by the sucking winds that pulled up, or leveled, everything in its path, everything.
As cleanup is begun, life continues, and the healing of the scars will take time, but mend the wounds. Life on this planet is a strange and fragile existence and is one with no guarantees of tomorrow, and had best be enjoyed, savored, and appreciated. A motto to heed is certainly, to “Be here now”.
On a totally different wave length from the sobering effects of the passing storm, the next day, outside in the woods, there was a loud and very strange noise coming from all over the place. It was a constant whirling, relentless whistling sound that brought to mind the sci-fi alien landing in a movie sound. This was a very different sound from the typical cicadas, crickets, frogs and such that are busy vocalizing away this time of year and as I rode my horses near the trees they paused and cast inquisitive ears towards the strange sound. It is now a loud and constant droning which lasts from dawn to dusk.
Red eyed cicadas are the source of this sound, the internet research enlightened us, a particualr batch of bugs that hatch only every thirteen years. Theirs is a life cycle that lasts as adults only for a few weeks, emerging from the soil as grubs that have fed on roots and such for thirteen years, and they then shed their skins to become winged adults. The males rub these orange rimmed wings together, making this crazy whirling sound, each trying to attract a red eyed female. Mating accomplished, she then lays her eggs either on these hard wood trees or in them, to lay in wait for yet another thirteen years, the cycle completed. An article written thirteen years ago predicted their return in late April, and that will remain present until a few weeks into May, and the author was spot on so far.
They are a colorful and good sized bug, and I nearly stepped on a very tired male this morning as a came from the barn. I went to go get something to put it in so I could photograph the thing later, but when I came back to it with a cup, the might dog, Jack, was standing where the poor bug had been, and the weary bug was now yet another victim of Jack’s culinary indiscretion. He looked quite innocently at me as he crunched the last of my would be model.
Our youngest daughter was born in 1985, on a year of their emergence, and she is soon to be twenty six, on this year of their second return since her birth. The next time they fill the air with their droning amorous calling, she will be thirty nine, and I can’t count high enough to know how old I will be, if granted, I am here. Funny, when one looks at events with personal markers like these, it does give one a frame of reference that gives thought. I will remember this reoccurring occasion of these bugs for the cross timing with her birthday. I will also regrettably, remember it in association with the timing of the deadly April tornados.
A little link on the bugs..