Summer in the Catskills, the days long and warm, the air humming with insects. Squirrels dangle from branches, trying to steal seeds out of bird feeders. The steep mountains are carpeted with trees.
In 1800, giant hemlocks, 80-100 ft. tall had covered these ridges. But by 1850 most had been cut down, their acidic bark stripped from their trunks to tan leather. The naked bones of the hemlocks still lie throughout these mountains, great trunks rotting in damp shade. In the glooming of the forest, their stumps, many three or four feet across, rise like mossy tombstones among the slender beech.
Yellow warblers, red and purple finch, Indigo Buntings and Rose-breasted Grosbeak abound in the once hemlock, now beech, wood. They are crepuscular, serenading the dawn and dusk with liquid song. In the morning, Scarlet Tanagers flash from tree to tree bright as flying apples.
I listen to crickets, measuring the rhythm of the night. I count the number of chirrups he can hear in fourteen seconds, then add forty. That makes it 69 degrees. Kinda useless knowledge, being able to calculate the exact temperature…If you get lost in the woods you know if you need a fire or to find shade… Knowing the temperature is not a skill that will help you survive a blizzard…You die with a number on your lips is all. Maybe crickets are reincarnated accountants.
A male cricket chirps nearby, faithfully records the temperature. He is not a reincarnated accountant and rather resents the suggestion. The world is, after all, made of numbers; trees carefully calculate where to best find sun… Pinecones and plants order their leaves and their scales with numerical precision… The cricket admires the truth in formulas and the simplicity of numbers. A number does not drop soft as a wish or sweet as love. It does not drift like a feather, fall like a stone it just is. Numbers are truth in art.
The cricket is much more artist than accountant. Why, he wonders, do humans always imagine that other beings are reincarnated humans? I bet this idiot is a rencarnated slim mold. Just then a female hops up, ending further speculation, action being at that moment, of more import than ideas.
Under the base of the cricket’s front wing he has a thick, ridged vein strong as a file (a weak file, but a file nonetheless.) The top of his wing is hard and stiff. While contemplating calculation and reincarnation, he’s been fiddling for a female by bowing the file of one wing across the hard top of the other. He is right winged, as most crickets are. The thin, papery portions of his wings vibrate, amplifying the sound.
Wing application is not enough for this cricket. He is a mole cricket. Mole crickets are the rock stars of the cricket world. He is fiddling from inside of the megaphone-shaped entrance of a tunnel he has excavated. When he fiddles from inside his foyer, the sound goes to eleven. He can be heard for more than mile around.
When the female hops up, coy and demure in a pale green exoskeleton that emphasizes her eyes, he is instantly set adrift is a sea of desire. He immediately begins to chirp a courtship song of love, fulfillment and regeneration.
and I am left alone, counting the stars.