Sometimes you don’t know you’ve taken something for granted until it is gone from your life. Sometimes it even takes a while to notice it is gone. We absentmindedly fill the emptiness with the clanging of everyday life until the absence is just too great. Then we have no choice but to admit that we have lost something of importance. This happened to me recently.
When my husband and I moved to Ecuador in the summer of 2013 we knew that we would miss some things from “home,” but we figured that the adventure would fill in any homesick void we may have had. And while this was true to some extent, there are just some things a person can not replace.
One of the things that appealed to us about moving to Cuenca, Ecuador was the absence of many of the bugs that are a plague on the southern United States. Like roaches, mosquitos, silverfish, and the dreaded Palmetto bugs. Despite hurling stay-away-from-me vibes toward the local insect population repeatedly over the course of my lifetime, they never quite got the memo that I don’t particularly like them. Especially mosquitos. I am, apparently, their favorite flavor. So when I heard that many of these bugs couldn’t survive at 8,500 feet, I did a little happy dance and packed my bags.
I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it was to be able to walk outside at sunset or to take a hike in the woods without dousing myself heat to toe with DEET. How liberating! For the first time in my life, I didn’t have perpetual itchy welts around my ankles nor splotchy red polka dots on my arms. I no longer had to stockpile Benadryl cream or citronella candles. It was a beautiful time in my life.
But something was missing.
After a few months, I began to feel a mysterious unease at night. I would lie in bed with our windows open like we often did in the spring and summer in the south, but something just wasn’t right. It took me several months to realize that what I was missing was the sound of crickets.
Crickets are cool little insects. They survived where dinosaurs could not, and have better eyesight than a sharpshooter. They are not too picky about where they live and, being sub-social, can survive on their own without help from any other cricket, thank you very much. They are useful scavengers, disposing of decaying plants and occasionally dead insect cousins. Because they are so prolific, they easily contribute to the food chain and are a tasty snack for lizards and frogs, as well as humans in some parts of the world (crunchy cricket chips, anyone?). Chinese royalty of yesteryear revered these flightless winged wonders so much they would make elaborate golden cages for them and keep them in the palace next to the throne. And, of course, we all know that crickets bring us good luck!
But the thing I love most about crickets is their sound. A group of crickets is called an “orchestra.” Makes sense, right? This insect orchestra has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Always in the background, soothing me with its hypnotic stridulation.
I am a musician, a pianist by training, and have had the fortune to play with a “real” orchestra on a couple of occasions. One of my favorite things about attending the symphony is the time BEFORE the program begins, the time when the musicians are warming up, tuning their instruments, practicing small troublesome sections, all at once with everyone focusing in on his or her own thing. This “pre” concert time produces cacophonous fiber strands that eventually combine to produce a lovely tapestry of rich and colorful music.
I guess it’s no wonder I love listening to the cricket orchestra so much, with each member of its all-male chorus clamoring for its individual opportunity to impress a female. The overlapping, the meditative repetition, the subtle difference in pitch, frequency, and volume is something I have never tired of.
This cricket “orchestra” has lulled me to sleep for almost fifty years. And when it was suddenly gone, I realized how much I had taken it for granted. I had just assumed it would always be a part of my life, always in the background, not even realizing there were parts of the world that would never be exposed to this unique music.
I am fortunate because the cricket orchestra has been returned to me with my return to the states. But I know that not everything in life can be returned. I only hope I can learn to appreciate the people and things I have in my life, when I have them, while I have them, and not assume they will always be there for me. Like the orchestra I took for granted.
K. Kris Loomis is the author of the humorous travel memoir, Thirty Days In Quito: Two Gringos and a Three-Legged Cat Move to Ecuador. She also writes adult parables and short stories as well as books about yoga and meditation. Kris is a determined chess player, an origami enthusiast, a classically trained pianist, and a playwright. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats.
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