Thursday, July 5, 2012

Color Series: Silver

Taking a bit of a blog break right now, and re-posting the Color Series while I'm away.
Hope you enjoy:

The air is heavy right now. Heavy with humidity that reminds me of August, and heavy with the trilling of cicadas. About two weeks ago a brood of periodical cicadas began crawling out of the earth after a thirteen-year infancy underground to shed their skins, take to the trees, and find mates.

It is noisy. There are some parts of town where you barely notice the sound, but around our house it is cacophonous—like a million tiny beads spilling onto the floor, endless waves of spilling all day long. Above that sound is a higher-pitched whirring, a silvery trill between “e” and “f” that hangs in the air like a humid haze. The effect is surreal, unearthly—until I remember that it is exactly earthly. I am entranced.

I understand why people get annoyed. The cicadas are intrusive. The sound doesn’t stop, and can exceed 90 decibels if you are standing under a tree full of them. They fly into me once in a while. They land on my arm or my neck and prompt a little zing of adrenaline before I remember I’m not afraid of them. (They don’t bite or sting, but they are rather large, and if insects creep you out, this is not a particularly happy place to be right now.) Our lawn is littered with empty bronze skins. Remnants cling to flowers, branches, and leaves, and congregate around the roots of trees. Everywhere you look or step it seems there is a cicada flying or crawling or lying dead, its short life span already complete.

These times when the natural world interferes with normal life—I truly enjoy them. I like being forced to see or hear or move differently. Are you paying attention? Do you see? Can you hear? Two weeks saturated with this electric sound is like two weeks edged with silver. How can you not pay attention? This is wonder—and yes, it has an edge to it. It is decidedly not the greeting-card variety; it is the kind of wonder that takes hold of you even while you feel the urge to turn away. But it is wonder-ful, because for a few weeks this summer, the air itself is silver.

Silver is an ornament, a glaze, a lining for something the artist or craftsman wants to highlight. Earrings direct the eyes to a face, a bracelet draws attention to the hand or arm. Tinsel on a Christmas tree, a silver place setting, tremolo violins in a Bruckner symphony. Silver is precious, but the things we adorn with silver, they are more so.

Do you see? Can you hear?

These days you are walking through are lined with silver.

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