I had just made the last trip outside for the night, flipping on the porch light and grabbing the few remaining items from the clothesline across the yard. Glad that I’d caught them before the heavy summer night could leave its cool dampness with them once more, clothes in hand, I moved mindlessly toward the back door, already falling into sleep.
The sounds from the woods and field, strong and rhythmic, buzzy, buggy--on any other night would have lured me into the darkness for one last pass on the trails before bedtime. But an early morning had already left me salivating for a delicious sleep to the tune of nighttime noises.
At my feet, frozen mid-stride in the light of the back porch, a small and muddied, wide-eyed bug paused on the concrete slab.
Not an insect drawn to light, he stumbled clumsily along on over-sized forelegs more suited for digging than walking and with a rounded profile that gave him an appearance less like a beetle, more like a bullet—a very slow one—poorly aimed and off course to arrive beside my back door.
In the several seconds that it took me to stoop and scoop the dirt-clad vagabond into my hand for a closer look, I had already come to recognize just what he was. The context was what, at first, had stumped me.
By mid-summer, lifeless hulls of annual cicadas garnish every vertical surface around my yard—tree trunks, garden plants, even the cedar shakes of the house. In their metamorphosis from subterranean, root-feeding nymphs to noisy, sap-sucking songsters of a heated afternoon, these large, loud relatives of tree hoppers and aphids emerge as adults, leaving behind translucent shed skins, still holding fast with clawed feet to their upright post.
The molted skins, split up the back and empty of their residents, are as common by July as the day is strong with song.
And, though I find their small exit holes scattered between blades of grass across the lawn, I’ve never found a nymph alive and walking—trundling in the dark from a life underground to a winged life in the sky.
He sat barely moving, caked with clay in my curled hand, deep shades of green peeking through the golden brown shell where dirt from his underground passage had been brushed bare. Then, stepping past the laundry basket and off the well-lit porch, I carried him into the darkness of the yard and set him at the base of Mother Maple.
Then, from the dirty, dusted shell, a peek of color as his newly-minted form emerged—an emerald-trimmed body with still-curled, turquoise wings, a face studded with 3 spots of gold, 2 widely-set eyes of jade.
See the 3 spots of gold in the center of his face?
They're tiny additional eyes (ocelli) which lie between his larger, widely set eyes!
"Have you seen...." is an effort to discover the unusual beauty in things not usually appreciated for their beauty.