November 11, 2020

What Cicada can teach us about Rest, Rejuvenation & Shedding what No Longer Serves Us.

“To speak of wilderness is to speak of wholeness. Human beings came out of that wholeness.” ~ Gary Snyder


Are you sure it’s okay, Mummy?

I’m sure, it’s fine.

It’s a little off the track, there might be crocodiles! We might get eaten!

I’m sure they wouldn’t put a campground right next to crocodiles, besides the path is right there, we can still see it, it’s fine.

The causal “to-and-fro” conversation continues as we wander slightly off the path on a summer evening nature walk, letting our food settle after our evening meal; it’s the coolest part of the day so it’s enjoyable to be outside.

Suddenly, we all smell something: Ohhhh, what’s that!?

A chorus of groaning and “pee-ewing” spontaneously erupt from my husband, daughter, and son as they say this with disgust. I start wildly sniffing, saying it with delight, as a potent smell hits us, thick in the humid air. This smell sends us on a hunt; where is the smell, what is the smell, the others sure it’s something dead. Me, sure it’s the blossom.

I see it then. Because we are looking, we discover one of nature’s offerings that likely would have gone unnoticed if we weren’t “off track” and on the hunt for something that smells. Being led then by our curiosity and sense of smell, excited to know if what we find will have us repulsed or falling in love…

We discover, not the smelly thing, but a tree trunk full of cicada shells, at least 20 of them, having shed their skin en masse to become winged ones.

We look up as we hear the raucous chirrup of the cicada, surely an exciting time in the life of cicada who now gets to fly, sing, and call in their mate! And then we feel a drip, drip, drip—gentle droplets rain down, letting us know that we have just been weed on by cicada.

They are up there alright, celebrating their transformation into winged beings, fully adult. They chirrup a resounding song that heralds the one who has become “fully realized,” a living embodiment of the blueprint they were born to become. A pinnacle of sorts, where they can offer to the world what is “theirs” to bring—a summer soundtrack, cicada “rain” falling from overhead on unsuspecting passers-by. A unique contribution to a complex and interconnected ecosystem, and perhaps, some baby cicadas!

Cicada shell is not unknown to me; I have seen them all my life, but only ever one or two, possibly three at a time—never more than this. Certainly, never over 20! So, I take this as something significant; a communication from the mysterious that there is something to pay attention to here.

And so, I lean in and deeply listen to the cicada.

Cicada, the one who starts life and lives underground for an unknown length of time, definitely years, but no one really knows exactly how many. We might say it’s “a long time” living underground, buried in the earth, attending to the roots, the dirt, that which is decomposing. Cicada is in no hurry to exit this world below the world, this realm is a legitimate dwelling place for cicada who is needed for the health of the ecosystem, both above and below the ground.

My mind then gently drifts to reflect my own experience of this year, being deeply “buried” underground— withdrawing and taking much needed time to regenerate and rest, to be “in” not “out.” I hear the familiar inner tussle that has been in my ear throughout—surely, you should be doing more than this? But “doing” has not been the call; “inward and down”—the only directions that have felt possible and desirable.

I wonder how this year has felt for others. How has this year has felt for you?

Sitting here with cicada shells, I see a powerful point of transition; the precise moment when the “one who hears the call” gets to emerge from the underworld, transcending old ways of being, taking the journey outward, erupting from that which no longer fits, to grow wings and fly.

I hold curiosity around the specific moment when cicada hears the call to emerge, perhaps a gentle voice saying, “It’s time.” The mysterious prompt coming from “who knows where” to become “who knows what;” a time of skin shedding, leaving behind everything that no longer serves, wings unfurling, new ways of being, belonging, and serving ripe for discovery.

I lean into the wisdom that lives here with cicada; the patience of cicada to be right where they are, the legitimacy given to the underworld place of dirt, roots, and decay, the courage to hear and respond to the call to emerge, to experience another manifestation of their full potential.

I wonder how the cicada knew it was time to make the journey outward, and I feel a legitimizing of my own journey. There is a softening around my “in-ness,” around my need to be underground. There is an appreciation that there is a time, a time not determined by me, but a time decided by mystery, to emerge, to be outward and winged and singing, and I feel this as a medicine for my soul.

This, in turn, opens a portal into a gentle friendliness with myself, my path, my readiness, the great cycles within cycles. All of it. This, a spontaneous experience of maitri that sinks deep into my fabric, so profoundly needed, cicada’s gift to me on this day of wandering in nature with my people.

I hold the curiosity around what cicada might have to teach humanity if we were to listen? I wonder what cicada might have as a gift for you?


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