The Roar of the Night

It’s assuredly late August. I just successfully escorted several crickets out of the house.

With such altruism I assure another evening, another year next of late summer night song.

Over the summer, weeding, pruning, I watch them grow, as I uncover their shade from brutal July sun. Like a farmer, a gardener knows these cycles from working the earth. The symbiotic rhythm of life.  These welcome signs confirm again that a cycle will not be broken. Nature is bigger, greater than any one person, any specie.

It also reminded me of a lovely editorial I read a decade or more ago in the New York Times. It comes to mind every late August. I’d like to share it here:

In 1899, Dr. Robert Thaxter Edes, a Harvard graduate and Civil War veteran, noted that “the tree cricket does not say much in the daytime.” Dr. Edes was trying to calibrate the change in the pitch of a tree cricket’s note as the temperature changes. F.H. Hall, writing in 1912, was more specific. The song is “a clear mellow whistle resembling the words treat, treat, treat, pitched about in C, two octaves above middle C, on a warm evening rising to D.” One species sings a half pitch higher and another “about F# on an average summer evening.”

The ensemble of those songs is what I hear these late summer nights. It is uproarious, a universal stridulation, as Dr. Edes might put it.  Unlike the first insect songs of summer, which come from the pasture grasses, the chorus of the tree crickets rises all around me, from bushes and from high in the maples and hickories. It sounds as though they are letting their songs fall from space.

It is, of course, not a true song, but the rasping together of wings held straight up from the body. For all I know, they could be playing tiny panpipes. The darkness seems to exult with song, and I find myself fearing the day when the sun will go down upon silence.

This chorus sounds like the end of a season, and yet it sounds like the start of one, too. It fills the night like a marsh full of spring peepers, whose ringing peep is said to be at E and F, four octaves above middle C. Nature may not intend this symmetry, but I can’t help liking it.

It’s encouraging to think that all this night song now will result in tree-cricket eggs that wait through the winter before hatching – the source of next summer’s singing.  Encouraging, too, to know that only undisturbed tree crickets sing. All is well as long as the night keeps roaring.

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