It's unpleasantly warm in most of my apartment tonight. I could actually feel sweat beading and making its slow, slithery way down my forehead as I talked on the phone with Comcast, trying to fix my wireless connection. It's cooler back here in the bedroom, where I've set up shop in front of the open window. This is my favorite window in the apartment because it is almost entirely blocked by a tall bush... light comes through, but it's filtered, cool, and it jumps and sparkles when the wind blows the branches of the bush. It's an awesome place to write. I've lit two pillar candles to provide light without as much heat, and the ceiling fan is going full speed.
Ok, so why I don't just turn on the AC? For one reason and one reason only: the sound of cicadas. I don't mind the heat... it's important to me to be able to hear them.
When I was a kid, I did not like summers. They were long, they were lonely, they were boring, and they weren't going to advance my career. I'm not kidding... I actually thought this. Right after Christmas Break in the third grade, my teacher had us trace and cut out the number "1985" from faded dark blue construction paper and write on it all the things that we hoped to do in This New Year. I wrote, among other overly ambitious things, "Prepare for College". She read it and looked at me with her eyes wide. "Prepare for College??" I drew back to avoid the great green cloud of her coffee breath and informed her seriously "it's never too early". She laughed aloud, bathing me in the green cloud and embarrassing me thoroughly. It had not occurred to me that maybe I should be thinking about other things... you know, dolls or something. Her mockery outraged my young Machivellian mind, and I spent the rest of the day in offended dignity.
Anyway, so summer was a fruitless time of lolling around, being a child, which I didn't consider myself to be particularly good at. I greeted each day with whatever enthusiasm I could muster, and dragged myself outside with a book to escape the meaningless boredom of my existence. I also ordered free things by telephone... like information on Miracle Ear... because, you know, it's never too early to begin to prepare for hearing loss. I also leafed through my Mother's Prevention magazine and ordered catalogs of meditation tapes and crystals and stuff. Because I was stressed... by childhood.
I was a strange kid. I can admit that at this point in my life.
The sound of the cicadas started just as the end of the long tunnel of summer came up as a distant pinprick of light on the horizon. I remember sitting outside on the patio in the cool of the evening, escaping the heat of the non air-conditioned house, sniffing the warm green scent of the full-leafed trees and grass that had been baked in the sun all day, listening to the cicadas, feeling excitement in my stomach at the thought that school would start soon. Every year I thought would be The Year. The year I would be popular. The year I would really find school as interesting as the books that I checked out from the library and the exploring and playing I did in our backyard. The year a really cute boy would like me. This will be the year, this will be the year... I held so much hope at the end of every summer.
Every summer, when the cicadas start singing at the end of July and the beginning of August, I feel that clenching in my stomach again, that excitement filling me. My late summer dreams as a kid were about as exciting as I was, but they were a looking beyond what was immediately present, and they really made me feel happy and optimistic about the future. I hear the cicadas singing now and I look at my life in gratitude, for all the things I wasn't dreaming as a kid and didn't plan that have happened anyway... for the blessings of community and career and education and travel and music and etc. etc. etc. For the things I thought were burdens and curses that weren't, in the end. For the failures that have humbled me and the small successes that have healed me.
More simply than that, though, I hear the cicadas singing and I am grateful for this gift of hope that God has given me, that He gives us. Every year, they're there, reminding me of something that happened too early in my life for me to argue with now, something deep. In the fertile ground of my neurotic, overly serious child's mind, God gave me faith, and faith gave me hope, and that hope has kept me going through a lot more boredom than I ever thought I could tolerate, and a lot more frustration with myself and others than I would (or should) have imagined as a kid. "Hope that is seen is not hope," but sometimes it's real and substantial enough that it has kept me going and kept me happy-ish... happy enough to function... just like it did when I was a kid.
In the still-fertile ground of my neurotic, overly serious adult's mind, cicadas are an indirect reminder of the Promise that is always there, of the work already done in Christ, and of God's Faithfulness, year after year, season after season, morning after morning. He gives Really Good Gifts, and I am so very grateful.
Don't forget to hope
2 days ago