On my last night in New Mexico for the summer, I listened to crickets as I left a Bandstand concert in Santa Fe. All of them kept the exact same beat throughout my fifteen minute walk to where I had parked my car, not single cricket out of sync with the rest. The bug music of the South is different. In Virginia at this time of year, cicadas ratchet away all day, and at night a polyphonic, polyrhythmic chorus begins. I meditate by going out on my deck, closing my eyes and deciding not to miss a note. It’s amazing how they produce this symphony by rubbing legs, or vibrating wings, or with specialized parts of their exoskeletons. Their bodies are musical instruments. (Did you know that Kokopelli, the flute player, was a bug? He’s identified with the musical cicadas but also with the stinging Robber Assassin Fly.)
The crickets here who are making all the noise are tiny, like miniaturized versions. The dragonflies are delicate creatures, too, needle thin, brilliant green, orange-red, and sky blue, sometimes flying united, two fragile bodies connected in a mating dance. When I was in Maine, on a run through the green hilly countryside, I came across a farm with a clay pit where enormous colorful dragonflies hovered over the standing water, ten times larger than their southwestern Virginia cousins, like trucks compared to motorcycles.
I’m not sure why insects are so large in less hospitable climates. New Mexico bugs will surprise people who think nothing can live in the desert. Think again. There are beetles and cockroaches out there that could carry a couple of fifty-cent pieces on their backs and not break a sweat (figuratively speaking).
If you’ve read The Outlaw Women, the short story prequel to the Mae Martin series, you know that Mae is not least bit squeamish about crawly critters. When it comes to this topic, more readers may identify with her friend Jamie, who enters the series in Shaman’s Blues. He’s appalled by spiders in particular and by things with too many legs in general. Personally, I like the many-leggeds, but with a few exceptions: roaches, flies, mosquitoes, biting ants and skunk beetles. I think I’ve mentioned before that bees and wasps sometimes walk on me when I do yoga outdoors, their delicate almost weightless feet on my skin. On close inspection, they’re quite beautiful. Some of them have bright yellow legs, a classy touch like the hubcaps that match the paint job on 1950s cars.
At a yoga and meditation retreat a number of years ago, Goswami Kriyananda came in a minute or two late to give his talk. He had stopped to help a fly that was trapped between a window and the screen. He opened the window, and then the screen, and closed the glass so the fly could go outdoors. He said it kept walking around and around on the screen in the same pattern it had before he offered it its freedom. With his warm and gentle humor, he said it reminded him of humans.