Adult cicadas are not built for survival. After years underground, the mature males and females tunnel upward and undergo a final, laborious molt. Then they test new wings. Adjust their eyes to the unfamiliar sky. Their last weeks are spent in sunlight and flight and pheromones. They feed and sing. Mate and die.
This summer I’ve watched the cicadas more closely than usual, though I don’t know why. Something about their abandoned husks on the fence caught and held my attention. My moonlit strolls in the yard turned into vigils as I witnessed the cicadas’ midnight molts. I’ve found them in the trees and on the driveway and on the deck. And I’ve begun to wonder if they mourn for the dim, damp earth of their youth. I wonder if they dread what emerges with their wings, if they fear their rapid senescence and dwindling strength. Does death mean anything different to a cicada than it does to me? Maybe it is simply another form of molting, for both of us.