Riverdave’s Journal
This essay appeared in the Fall 2003 issue of Eno Currents

Late summer and fall is a most savory season for listening to wild calls along the Eno River. After the Fourth of July Festival, the bugs take over the air waves from the birds and the frogs. Cicadas step up to the mike during daylight hours. Then at dusk there is a changing of the guard and katydids come forth as masters of the nocturnal audio realms.

This pattern continues until the first cool days of late September when milder air turns down the volume on these amorous calls. If we experience an Indian summer, very abbreviated versions of cicada and katydid choruses may continue into October, but by early November this second wave of warm season songs has faded out completely.

The decrescendo of cicadas and katydids ushers in the crescendo of yet a third distinct wave of calls, the season of crickets and grasshoppers. Whereas creatures of the second wave call from arboreal perches over our heads, crickets and grasshoppers in the third wave call from grassy areas near the ground. From late summer to mid fall, nature hands over the airwaves to this group of highly sonorous animals.

Crickets generate a high pitched, musical call while grasshoppers produce a less melodic and more metallic sounding strain. They interplay together, both day and night, to rarefy the crisp fall air with the luxuriant sound of teeming life. When freezing weather approaches in late fall, these insects finally go silent, most of the next generation over wintering only as eggs.

I’m quite confident that seasoned subscribers to Eno River Currents are among the cognoscenti who do not live in hermetically sealed houses, with windows and doors locked tight from spring through fall, listening to the “whooooosh” of air conditioners and heat pumps.

The sad truth is that those who have accustomed themselves to such an insulated and cloistered lifestyle, miss out on what is truly one of the greatest delights of living on the planet earth – the dazzling, late summer and fall chorus of vocalizing insects.

I, for one, am convinced that chanting bugs communicate important subliminal messages to all the animals in the forest as well as to humans. If we go about our household tasks and even sleep at night with an open and “breathing” house, our subconscious  is massaged with a continual stream of magical messages that inextricably bind us with the natural world in both healthy and mysterious ways.

So, if you have any neighbors who perpetuate that weird modern habit of shutting doors and windows in the warm seasons, in deference to a few degrees difference in temperature comfort, just remind them that WE ONLY HAVE ONE LIFE TO EXPERIENCE THE PRECIOUS CALLS OF THE NATURAL WORLD. To shut them out, and thereby teach our children to ignore them, is yet another ignorant attempt by human beings to divest ourselves of one of the most salubrious lullabies we can experience on this marvelous planet Earth.

Photo by Stavey Hillmer: periodical cicadas