Monday, August 9, 2010

What Cicadas? I don't hear anything!

I moved to Palm Springs from Pasadena. Both conjure up images of the urban landscape. Not so.

In Pasadena, we lived on ¾ of an acre bordering on hundreds of undeveloped acres of hilly land. In this area lived mule deer, coyote, bob cat, raccoon, skunk and, well, you get the idea. The fence around the pool was to keep the deer out. All the other animals found ways in to the watering hole. I loved living in the middle of all that wildlife.

Four years ago, we relocated to Palm Springs. We live in the center of town where houses are built on a grid of streets with curbs! Curbs! We’ve not had curbs for over 15 years! Most houses have lawns either in front of or behind walled property. We live on a corner and for the first time in 30 years, we have an actual lawn. With sprinklers.

In Pasadena, I felt as if nature was all around us (mostly munching on our attempts at gardening or stalking the cats). In Palm Springs, I felt isolated from the fauna of the area. I see & smell no sign of skunk, there’s no sign of coyote (I know they’re out there), I’ve not seen a raccoon since moving here and definitely there’s no mule deer or bob cat. I no longer worry about the cats being coyote bait.

I resigned myself to being a certified citified city dweller, removed from the call of the wild. Every plant in this neighborhood was planted by a gardener; every animal a pet. And then I discovered the cicadas.

I have tinnitus. I hear cicadas in my head all of the time. So, if there are cicadas about, I don’t hear them unless someone points them out. And even then, I’m not sure I hear them.

We have a verdant front lawn with ten mesquite trees. The lawn is quite small and lush. It is the perfect life cycle environment for the cicada. They’ve moved in and colonized. Every year they increase in number. This year they came out of the ground in herds. They marched up the trees and left their nymph exoskeletons behind. Those shells are on the wall, the fence and any other vertical surface they found. It’s quite amazing to see.

The mesquite trees have columns of nymph shells marching up the underside of the limbs, all facing the same direction like ghostly troops marching in formation. I wish I had been there to see them emerge and molt. Do they do that at night or in the early morning? Do they leave the ground one at a time or in herds? Did they all march up the tree together? Do the nymphs keep walking up the tree until their back splits or do they stop their climb and simply molt? I can probably Google the answers . . .

The cicadas have re-connected me to “wildlife.” Palm Springs no longer feels sterile and totally man-made. Nature operates with wild abandon on my front lawn! I take delight examining my mesquite trees for further signs of troop movement. I have become adept at spotting adult cicadas in the trees.

The cicadas are singing? I don’t hear anything! You’re making that up!

Please take a minute to visit my website at Take a look at my artwork. It is all for sale (except for “Icarus” and “Winter Rain”). Please contact me if you want to buy one of my works or if you have any questions about a specific piece. My contact information is on my website and you can leave a comment on this blog site for me to contact you. You can e-mail me at or you can telephone me on my studio phone 760-992-3157. You can call me. I won’t mind.

Thanks for listening,

Jerry L. Hanson

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