Seventeen years after burying themselves, Brood X of the cicada family is stirring, digging themselves out of the ground, pushing their not-yet-hardened bodies out of their shells. The noise in the woods as I walk around the lake is insistent, drumming and humming a loud vibration. I find no real beauty in these insects, large flies with round red eyes. And I even find myself a bit repulsed as hundreds of them have climbed up the tree trunks, dropping their translucent shells on the ground. A rumor going around is that some of the rustic mountain men around these parts collect the shells and eat them. These must be the same guys that hunt squirrels and forage for morel mushrooms. Very in tune with Nature.
In the same breath I say I am a bit repulsed; I am also in awe. I met my first cicadas in 2004, in early June, and here we are exactly 17 years later. How does the cicada know it has been 17 years, not 16 not 18? What kind of amazing internal clock is at work? When I Googled to see what scientists say, I read that it is felt that cicadas follow the passage of time by following the yearly cycle of tree sap. Sorry, but I think this answer is much too simplistic for the incredulous process at work. The yearly cycle of tree sap? How would a cicada know to count one year, then two, then three and know when the magic seventeen arrives?
The answer I am left with is Life is amazing, and Life Just Knows. The land around my house in South Central Pennsylvania is teeming with the All-Knowing-Life. As soon as the weather warms in the spring, the tree frogs begin to sing. The loft bedroom has a screened door to a small outside deck, I open the door and fall asleep to that peaceful lullaby. A few weeks after the tree frogs start singing, the big bass of Eastern toads begins. Then the egg sacs appear scattered throughout the ponds; gelatinous globules attached to the stems
and bottoms of the lily pads. A few weeks later, tadpoles are swimming in and out between the vegetation along the edges of the pond. And then, again, like clockwork, the yearly parade of thumbnail sized babies is hopping through the grass, out exploring the world.
As a physician, daily, I consider the physiologic processes of the body, and seek out the errors and imbalances. This is the stuff prescribing medications is built on. But our bodies have a deeper knowing, wisdom that is not easily described or categorized. Our cells respond to the nutrients they receive, our neurons fire off in patterns dictated by sensory stimuli. And most of this inner working is proceeding without our conscious awareness. Life (cellular, biologic, organic) Just Knows.
Our ancestors knew many things we seem to be losing. There was a connection in our bodies and conscious connection to Nature much stronger than that of today. I worry that as humans in this highly technological world, bombarded with electronic stimulation, we are losing our “knowing”.
The way the smell of the air changes before a rain. The way our bones creak when a cold front is on the horizon. How we know the girlfriend group of does is coming through the woods because the birds’ chirping has changed patterns. How there must be a rabbit nest in the ground ahead because the black lab has slowed his stride, his attention focused, tail no longer wagging and now stiff behind him.
And there is the deeper knowing within our bodies that we could be better at. Is the stomachache really the stomach or the intestines? Am I getting an infection or was it just something I ate that did not agree with me? Is my headache from the way I slept on a crummy pillow or a sinus infection? Are my palpitations from too much coffee or am I worried about something? Or on a much deeper level – am I approaching the conflict at work with an open heart, expecting a good outcome or am I closed off to an equitable solution? Was I impeccable in my intentions or were my actions driven by my fears and biases? Am I listening to the voice of Spirit for guidance?
For me, the best place to regain that deeper knowing is to spend more time in the quiet, listening to inner voices and to spend more time in Nature, listening to age-old rhythms and patterns. The cicada or its ancestors has been around for at least 40 million years, and its distant cousins over 200 million years. The wisdom gained from any insect or human having developed in concert with weather, trees, and other creatures for that many years is mind-blowing. We can reconnect to these patterns and get smarter. And, in the quiet, we can start to listen once again to our inner voices and hear again the wise one coaching us. We can be still and tap into our bodies, understanding what flows and what might be a little off. And then, we can hear both from our wise coach and our body itself what do to about the imbalance. Connect more fully to Life, outside us and deep within. Connect more fully to Life, because Life Just Knows.