Cicadas, Lightning Strikes, & Nostalgia

It's getting harder to tell the difference between loneliness and homesickness. I came back from Iowa just two weeks ago, and already my soul aches. Here I am, in the heart of Indianapolis, with windows thrown wide. They've been that way for two days now, actually. Last night, the cicadas were buzzing, droning, and drowning everything but memories of my backyard in Iowa, when I'd lie in the hammock, bare-footed and armed with a book. The hammock had been stretched between a pair of honey locust trees, two of the oldest and tallest on the block. The one my head was usually nearest had been hit by lightning years before, during a thunderstorm that had dropped golf ball-sized hail and an impenetrable curtain of rain.

I had felt the storm's energy that day.

The universe had slowed. Both light and sound were compressed and suffocated, as if cloaked with heavy smoke. The hum of electricity was oppressive, as if the particles around me could dance only faster, faster, faster, faster until the hairs on my arms stood erect, and the air was electrified with a hot sizzle and a white flash traveling at 671 million miles per hour, cracking through the silence, and through the sky, and through the tall honey locust tree.

Several years after the strike, the tree's bark was as brittle as a hollow bone. Sometimes, the bark would flake away, revealing the paths of wood-boring insects, whose trails were not unlike the dizzying layouts of the suburbs. But where the bark still held, there clung a thousand cicada shells. When I was still a child, I'd pluck them, sometimes standing on toes, with fingers outstretched. I'd pinch them between thumb and forefinger and examine the paper-thin shells for fragility. If there was, in my child's eyes, even the smallest defect, I'd smash the shell between my palms, grinding it to dust.

Now, it is strange to think that a body that so well served an underground creature for so long could be so easily dismissed by a ten-year-old girl.

True, I did save most of the shells. I'd pull them off the trees, off the bushes, and off the back of our garage, counting as I dropped them, one by one, into an ice cream bucket. One. Two. Three. Twenty. Seventy five. Two hundred. Collecting became a greedy habit, as if I were gathering mulberries instead of hollow carcasses. But no matter the number of shells, three or three hundred, there would always be more. There would always be the cicadas in the highest branches, with high-pitched songs you could both hear and feel. Their nightly symphonies demanded attention.

Tonight, however, the cicadas are quiet; they've been silenced by steady rain and cooler temperatures. There are few crickets out there, though. Save for their chirpy chatter, it is quiet. It is cool, damp evenings like that make most nostalgic.

I miss Iowa.

I miss quiet streets, and a post office within walking distance. I miss Friday nights at the football field, and the smell of mom's homemade bread, hot from the oven, soft and smeared with butter. I miss her cranberry-scented candles. And the pumpkin-scented candles. And basically any of the fall-related candles she ever purchased. I've only a peppermint one now, a three-wick leftover from the holidays. I lit it a couple hours ago, and my apartment does smell calming.

But it's not the same.

It's too empty here.

My four hundred and fifty square-foot apartment is too empty.

I've never been fond of living by myself. I'm far too much of an emotional being to survive without some sort of companionship. In fact, Zoë, on more than one occasion, has referred to me as her "feelings person." She said that emotions spill out of me, whether in written words, in spoken words, or in forceful statements over a beer.

She's right.

Unlike me, Zoë is very pragmatic. Ty is, too. But despite our differences, I miss them on nights like this. Damp, chilly nights punctuated by the chirp of an occasional cricket. "Sweatshirt weather," I think is what this is called, and it is this time of year that reminds me how much I miss college, too. The amount of time I spend dwelling about Purdue and wishing that the three of us could be there again is probably unhealthy. Hell, I don't even know what we would we do if we were all in college now, or even within walking distance of each other. My guess is that we'd end up on someone's couch three nights a week with a bottle of Jameson, a black and white movie, and a pie, from which we would refuse to cut pieces. No, we would just set the pie on the coffee table, family-style, and use our forks to joust for the same delicious-looking bite.

I wish I could see them more often. And I wish I could curl up with Ty on the couch, after the sun falls and I start to shiver. He'd be reading some sort of article on his phone, or watching Monday night football, even, as I fell asleep against him. I ache for that sense of comfort, for that closeness, just as much as I ache for the familiarity of Iowa and of my mother's house. But, as I said above, I get confused. I'm not sure what I am: lonely or homesick.

Maybe I'm a third option: nostalgic.

3 comments:

  1. I'd never heard cicadas before until we went to Croatia. they really are a unique sound. It took me a while to get used to them and then when we came back to England I missed the sound for a while.

    I think you're all three - I am too. I'm home sick for Norfolk, mostly the beach... I miss the sea. But its different now to when I used to live there, so there's a definite nostalgia to the feeling.

    I'm always a bit lonely though - even around people, it has to be the right people for sure. I sit opposite someone at work everyday but I might as well be opposite a plank of wood.

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  2. Look, for what it's worth...I lived in Indiana for two years, for grad school, and then moved west to California to take a job after I graduated. That was eight years ago, and not a single day has gone by that I haven't missed every gosh-darned thing about Indiana, Indianapolis, Bloomington, the Midwest, the weather, the seasons, the people. Regret haunts me in my dreams. I wear an Indiana charm around my neck, I'm planning my next trip back there almost a year out, I'm freaking LOOKING FOR INDIANA BLOGS on teh Interwebs. I guess what I'm trying to say is...if you're nostalgic and/or homesick enough, find a way to move back to Iowa. Don't wait until you build up a life in the new place, a life that can divide your loyalties. Get out and go back to what you miss while you still can.

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  3. I feel as though I had some of these same feelings about five years ago. I had been out of college for a few years, and I missed relationships and things and places about college and sometimes home in Indiana. Recently, this past winter, I felt the same hole as I thought about a brunch group our family would get together with every other week during my childhood.

    For me, they were symptoms of it being so difficult to build similar roots in relationships here in Baltimore. Part of that is being an adult-- no one tells you that it's harder to make friends as an adult. And part of it was quitting my teaching job and realizing which of my co-workers were and were not really friends. However, as I began processing through all of that, thinking that I was lonely and homesick, much like you, I realized that even if I did go back to those things, they would never be the way that I envisioned them, that they would be entirely different than I remembered, simply because life is always in constant change.

    And for that reason, nostalgia seems to be the best descriptor. When I have those feelings, instead of letting them get to me, I've started looking for ways to create new relationships and favorite places and community. Easier said than done, but certainly helps immensely when I'm feeling a bit down.

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