When I was in Greece 30 years ago, my classics classmates and I stayed in double rooms in hotels and got up at the crack of dawn to pile onto tour buses.
When I was in Greece last month, my family and I stayed here, at the Villa Calista on Crete.
The photos almost capture the splendour of the place. What they don’t capture at all, of course, is sound—in this case, the relentless screaming of cicadas. The place was otherwise so quiet: pretty much just wind and distant bleating and the mewing of invisible kittens. (The kittens were apparently at the bottom of the little olive orchard; while we saw their mom, and she bonked Elder Daughter Emma affectionately, we never did see them. Luckily, there were hordes of visible cats absolutely everywhere else.) But the cicadas. The metallic, grindy shrieking that swelled in waves, from olive tree to olive tree, as if each group felt compelled to be more stridently impressive than the others. “No way,” I thought as I stood by the pool for the first time, sweaty, breathless because it was so damn beautiful but also because the drive from Heraklion had been so nerve-wracking. “I will never get used to this sound.”
But I did. It faded, somehow. Became part of the beauty and the solitude. (It faded for real at night, when things went very quiet indeed.) We didn’t forget about the cicadas, though. In fact, we sought them out: stood with our noses inches away from olive trunks or branches, speaking in coaxing or frustrated tones. “Here, cicada cicada. Come on: show yourself…” The closest we came to an actual sighting was at ancient Aptera, where a couple of them bumbled out of trees and into Younger Daughter Stella, who didn’t seem quite as eager to meet them as the rest of us were.
We ferried to Santorini, after our idyllic days in the villa. And lo: there were no cicadas. Actual, daytime quiet—except for the irritable braying of nearby donkeys…
…and the patter of kibble as it went into the bowl that fed our resident feral kittens…
…and, as it turned out, a bunch of adult cats who obviously got wind of the kibble news.
When we left Greece, I figured that would be it for cicadas and us for a good long time.
Only it wasn’t. This guy was lurking on our porch the week after we got back.
Because we’d never actually seen one of his Greek brethren up close, we had to Google it to be sure—but yes: a cicada. A single, silent cicada.
I took more pictures than I probably needed to. But come on: look at that face!
We relocated him from the porch table to the rose bush, thinking this might deter predators (like our cats) and provide him with sappy sustenance.
We checked in on the rose bush the next day: no cicada. “He’s moved on,” we said cheerfully. “Yup: he’s off finding a more appropriate home and he’ll be just fine.”
One morning a week later, I went out to throw some recycling in the bin beside the porch. I turned, took a step back to the front door, and felt something crunch beneath my shoe. It was a significant crunch. I glanced down—and there he was: our lone cicada, flattened, oozing a yellowy-green liquid.
After all the shrieking on Crete and the silent, surprise photo shoot in Toronto, this was not how the cicada story was supposed to end. I was supposed to glimpse him, before my foot descended—was supposed to cry out joyfully and pluck him up and deposit back on the rose bush. He might disappear again, of course, but he’d be back: the porch of the Magic Bungalow was obviously his chosen place.
I’m possibly a little too upset about how the story did end. Stupid messy, abrupt, arbitrary smoosh, when the story had such a coherent and pleasing arc. Stupid story about a stupid bug. Get it together, me.