By Catherine DiMercurio
Sometimes I consider my place in my ecosystem, and yours.
Sometimes the wild hum of it all is overwhelming and you feel perched in the center, balancing, trying not to fall. Sometimes you focus on the sounds of the crickets at dusk and dawn and try to not think about how many things you have to think about, and how many things the people you love have to think about.
You wonder: what can be offered, what can be spared, what can be given, what can be asked, what can be answered. How do we care for each other?
Several nights ago, when I awoke sometime in the very early morning, I realized it was the first time I heard crickets this summer. The windows were open, and the night was warm, and as I lay there in a state of semi-consciousness, I thought that it seemed late in the season, but with a cold wet spring perhaps normal cricket development was a bit delayed.
I think about expectation and delay, and the way life is like that, how it’s about what we expect will happen and when, what we as children imagine our adult lives will be like, the way we come to accept that many of the things we want we must wait for, and other things we cherish must be given up too soon.
There is so much of adult life we cannot imagine as children. Everything seems so far away, and yet, attainable. When I was little, I wanted to be a clown or a waitress or a florist or a poet and a wife and mother and a baker and someone who got to read a lot of books.
This summer was the first summer of my children’s lives, from the time that my son was three and my daughter five, that we did not take a summer camping trip. This summer both kids are working and saving money and we couldn’t quite get the timing right for the three of us to go away. With both of them working hard for future goals they aren’t quite sure of, I can see how confusing it must be, the sense that something is expected of you. It isn’t just me, or their father, or their peers, or themselves, expecting something.
The world expects us to make something of ourselves, to be some sort of contributing member of society. And that isn’t a bad thing, but it is a vague thing, and it is a thing that insinuates a debt of some kind, as if we owe the world somehow to make something of ourselves. What thing? Why?
I can see them weighing everything associated with expectation and delay, and though I’m at a different point in my life, I feel this soul-lurch sometimes, too.
We are caught, in a way, fluttering all our lives toward a web of ever-changing expectation.
And some of the things we want, we must delay, and some of thing things we’d prefer not to delay have a way of eluding us anyway.
And what is our cold wet spring? What causes us a shift in development, when is the right time to sing?
Later in the season than expected doesn’t matter much to a cricket, does it? And a cold wet spring might make things tough on a cricket, but maybe it is ideal for other creatures. Are we more like a cricket or more like an ecosystem?
It is easy as we move through our adult lives to grow dismal from responsibilities, to feel burdened by the necessity of income-driven labor, to feel an unspecified longing that makes us uneasy. It is easy to frame our adult gratitude not in terms of the presence of things but absences, in terms of what we haven’t lost, or haven’t lost yet. A component of our health, tiny pieces of mental acuity, loved ones, a dream or several, a particular way of hoping, that easy way we had when we were kids of knowing that things would work out.
We didn’t know much about cold wet springs then, or maybe, we did, but we sang.
We have always been, after all, both cricket and ecosystem.
It’s is also alarmingly easy to feel separate, apart from everything, neither cricket nor ecosystem, but more like a bird in a cage, careening from this perspective to that, looking out of this side of the cage, or the other. Be this, do that, look at them, look at me. Wait, don’t look at me, I’ll be over here.
Sometimes we blink and realize there is no cage, there are only narrow views shaped by frames we did and did not create.
Sometimes we can see that lives – yours, mine, ours, theirs – are not there to be viewed from this perspective, or that, they are not a spectacle, though I am more prone than ever to looking at my own life and witnessing it as if it is an object separate from myself.
Mid-life-ish is already a natural time to be introspective, a time of before and after, of comparing the expectations of youth to the reality of now and weighing all of that against our desires for what we’d like the rest of our lives to be like. Perhaps it crystallizes in a new way now, as we witness our children shift from childhood to adulthood, transforming and leaving behind versions of themselves.
We notice, unexpectedly, cicada husks still clinging to the cement base of the pillar on the porch. I’ve seen two in as many days.
We are time-bound creatures, there’s no getting around it, but there are also limitless parts of us, energies that cannot be created or destroyed.
We might be cricket and ecosystem but we are also cricket song, we are what we create.
Voices carry, amplify, are heard and listened to. They become a part of someone else.
This is all to say, at any given time, when we are feeling overwhelmed and overly constructed by time and environment and expectation, that we might hear a note in the night that allows us to remember we are something else, too, than the current shape of our thoughts and worries.
We are song and energy, the note in someone else’s night.
We are for each other as much as we are for ourselves. And that is sometimes all we can ask and all we can offer and sometimes it is enough and sometimes it is everything.