I didn’t hear my cricket last night. I miss him, but he did a beautiful job of announcing the arrival of summer all last week.
I believe it was a him. If I recall my high school biology, the male is zinging his hind legs to let any interested females know right where he is. Yes, this is confirmed by some swift research that says that the males rub their wings together and produce a calling song that is species-specific. Females are attracted to the song, and the song repels other calling males in a type of territoriality. Apparently, my lonely cricket found his true love, or she found him, as things went quiet.
I expect one of his several dozen siblings will pick up the tune, and I am counting on that to soothe my future summer nights. It’s as good as a sleeping pill. It’s one of those sounds I have an entire childhood of pleasant memories attached to. The only thing better would be the sound of surf. The sound of crickets, however, is considerably more affordable.
My summer memories of contentment attached to the cricket’s chirp began with our annual visits to Tucson, Arizona. We would often pull up to my aunt and uncle’s house in the wee hours. For decades, their house was the only light in the desert, and in the stillness, the only sound you’d hear upon opening the car door would be the cricket chorus. Later, I’d lie in bed, thrilled that the long car trip was over, and hear the crickets sing me to sleep.
In rural East County, where I spent my teen years, the arrival of summer was largely heralded by that same cricket tune. It confirmed that school was out, the windows could stay open, and life was good. My only negative cricket experience was during my two years (and a thousand summers) in Palm Springs.
Again, it was lovely to hear them at a distance through open windows, but out there the crickets had a bad habit of sneaking into my kitchen, where their singing turned into shrieking as the sound echoed off the tile. Sadly, I burned up a lot of cricket karma out there as I sucked them up with my vacuum cleaner at 2 a.m.
Any Irishwoman reading this will be horrified at the bad luck I may have brought upon myself through my temporary disrespect of the cricket. At least that’s what my Irish grandmother told me. A cricket on the hearth, a la Dickens, was wonderful good luck.
At present, they seem content to stay outside, where I find their concerts equal to anything the Hollywood Bowl ever had to offer. I submit, however, that things could have been worse for my Palm Spring crickets. The Chinese crush them up for medicinal purposes, have special cages that enhance the songs and let the males fight the same way people in other cultures fight dogs or chickens.
I have an entire backyard full of rotting fruit and vegetation for their dining pleasure. All I ask is that they chase the girls and stay out of the kitchen. A pretty sweet deal, I’d say.