The noises of summertime in Monmouth County, New Jersey start very early in my neighborhood, which has a population ranging from sleepless retirees to gleeful little kids. The ever-present drone of lawnmowers starts to crop up at around seven o’clock in the morning, with the occasional “thwack!” (and subsequent cursing) as an overexcited neighbor unintentionally mows rocks or old toys.
For a small town, we hold a good amount of wildlife. Our 17-year cicadas will pervade our afternoons with their loud, creepy buzzing; other colorful insects will also elicit screams from the neighbors who will never get used to their presence. Opossums and groundhogs nose around my large backyard and disappear into the poison ivy thatches that I won’t dare approach.
Across the street, my neighbor’s shrieking kids try to chase a tiny brown bunny, who hops frantically through the safety of some bushes until the kids lose interest. I awaken not to the cicadas, and not to the relentless mowing of lawns that are already buzzed into submission—no, I awake to the persistent smack of a stinkbug crashing into my bedroom walls.
As the day moves on and we approach into a dusky sundown, we all make the same stupid mistake. We want to sit outside and chat with each other, to embrace the evening breeze that is such a relief from the sweaty humidity of noon… and we are mercilessly bitten by mosquitos to remind us that this land is not really “ours!” The smell of bug spray hangs heavy and sticky in the air, and after a while, we give up and return to the air-conditioned pleasure of our homes.
As nighttime approaches, sharp-eyed observers will notice and hear a few young bats proudly flapping their wings as they swoop around our tall trees. They’re harmless, unless, of course, they accidentally swoop too low and get tangled in your hair—an incident that happened to my mother years ago that our family will never forget. The quiet bats make for an eerie, black contrast against the paling sky, and I watch their retreating figures and listen to the buzz of summertime through my window before I fall asleep.
This is a delightful and refreshing article, Emily! I feel like we’re walking together in the dying day of a hot summer night and you’re showing me the details of your life. Such rich writing! Thank you for sharing this with us!
I actually did write this at night! I think it’s often hard to appreciate that beauty and simplicity of a summer day when you’re in the midst of it. It’s much easier to sweat and complain of the exact creatures I praised in my article… something I’ve been guilty of doing! Sitting and reflecting in the relative quiet of nighttime was a much easier way for me to parse out all the tiny moments that make up a day.
Reflecting, and then sharing, is the hallmark of a great writer, Emily! Keep up the grand work!
It sounds very similar to our evenings – with the same reminder – the bugs always win !
Yes! Above all, no matter what we humans do, the land still belongs to nature. I always try to remind myself of that before freaking out over whatever creepy creature I’ve found in the house.
It reminds me of the new-ish influx of deer in Staten Island, NY (my old homeland!). Everyone was surprised because they’d never been seen around there before– they’ve begun to swim from NJ all the way to there. Nature can and will find a way to reclaim its home.
I really love this piece. It is so evocative. I remember the scream of the cicadas (we called them 17 year locusts) one summer when I was a child. And my dad wreathing the trees with aluminum foil to deter them from climbing up (I guess). I hope where you live there are fireflies because I would like you to write about them next!
I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’ve never heard of that tin foil method. Maybe we should try that this summer before the invasion really begins.
And we do have fireflies by the dozen, especially in my backyard. I don’t know why I left them out… maybe I will write about them for next week!