"Wait, you ate dinner there? They don't have any outdoor seating. You ate INSIDE? How did you do that?" I asked.
My friend laughed. "Yes, we ate indoors. We're vaccinated! We BELIEVE in the vaccine. It was lovely."
I believe in the vaccine, too.
Yes, I, too, have been vaccinated.
However, I am surprisingly ill-at-ease about our world opening up, this ability to leave our homes and be out and about. I am moving slowly and with trepidation towards all these new "normal" opportunities that await. Honestly, I surprise myself with my fear, my anxiety. I joked with my friend that I feel like a cicada, emerging slowly, not entirely understanding where I am now, and then moving confusingly through the world, bumping as I go. I'm edgy, restlessly edgy. Overly sensitive. Maybe I shouldn't use the word "overly" with sensitive - ha! - I need to be sensitive about that.
Why does eating indoors in a restaurant make me so nervous? What is my deal?
It's as if I have been on a very strict diet, and then I am invited to a smorgasbord of all my favorite rich and heavy foods - it looks delicious, but it doesn't feel good to partake. Too much too fast.
I want it, I want it, I want it, but it leaves me a little shaky and uncomfortable.
I have long known I am an introvert; I have never known myself to be this ill-at-ease.
I think it is going to just take time - right? Just a little out of step, I am.
This past Sunday, Father's Day, the kids and grandkids feted my husband with a big yummy breakfast; by 1 pm, everyone was gone, and we had this quiet day remaining - a very typical pandemic day, a day in isolation, just the two of us.
What should we do for dinner on this special day, just the two of us?
That evening, we took the plunge.
Just like we always used to do, we walked to our favorite little restaurant in downtown Silver Spring, a cozy little Indian-Nepali place.
Just like we always used to do, we went INSIDE. Yes, I faced my vague, invisible, stunting fears.
Just like we always used to do, we had a delightful time. Funny thing, I'm not the only one with these fears - we were the only customers eating inside the restaurant (though there was lots of takeout business, which is how the restaurant survived these pandemic months). This quiet and familiar restaurant was just the environment I needed - and it came with an extra-special bonus of good conversation with the owners, sharing stories about this strange time we are all living through.
Slowly but surely, I am emerging, we are all emerging.
[For privacy reasons, I have nicknamed my granddaughters "Frog" (2 1/2 years old) and "Bird" (six months old).]
I was squeezed in close to Frog, in the far corner of the porch, with Bird on my lap, surveying the wild scene in the yard surrounding us. We are in the midst of the 17-year Brood X cicadas here in the Mid-Atlantic, and they are everywhere - flying about, buzzing and bumping.
Truly, they are EVERYWHERE
recklessly diving into you, as you walk,
flying into open car windows,
wandering up bare legs,
adorning window screens, doors, the sides of houses,
latching onto your body, clothes, hair, and hitching a ride,
crawling up tree trunks and along branches, to lay eggs,
swarming ornamental grasses and other leggy plants, turning them a visual brown,
littering the street, sidewalks, front yard with their dead bodies at the end of their oh so brief lives.
Frog was absolutely fine with the empty, motionless, shells of nymphs that were the first sign of these Brood X cicadas a few weeks back. We found these throughout the yard, and even collected a few in a container. However, these noisy new adult cicadas have her feeling very cautious. At nearly two inches in length and seeming to possess no awareness of where their bodies are in space, one never knows when and where they will surprise you. We decided to watch them from a safe distance on the porch, while Bird drank a bottle.
At one point, Frog's attention waned and she got up to look at something on the other side of the porch. Right away, I saw a cicada crawling nearby (seriously - these insects are EVERYWHERE) and I called out calmly, "Don't be too surprised, but there is another cicada right near your foot." Frog looked down at it, eyes wide, and then she hopped/danced/jumped back to the safety of our nook on the porch chair. We giggled together, at her delightful dance. This 'cicada shuffle' is becoming very familiar to all of us.
I seem to learn something new about these insects every single day. My latest learning: a two-headed cicada, right in the middle of the road, as I went out for my walk.
I trudged by it,
found myself still thinking about it,
walked back, and
stood over it,
Four eyes, two on each end, looking back at me.
How in the world did it get two heads?
Nature is so fascinating. I mean, of course, with this many cicadas, there are bound to be some that arrive looking a little different, yes?
Then, the one cicada with two heads separated into two cicadas and flew off in two directions. Ah, they were mating!
I laughed at my ignorance, yelled "Get a room!," and continued my walk. Imagine, so determined to go forth and multiply, you choose to mate in the middle of the street in the middle of the day! My goodness.
The cicadas are at their peak and the noise is deafening. It's as if someone is standing right next to my head with a rainstick, shaking it up and down, over and over. Have you heard/seen this musical instrument? I had a rainstick in my preschool classroom, and it was a very effective tool to get the children's attention. It was a long, cylindrical, wooden tube filled with small particles - rice, maybe? very small pebbles?
Tip the tube one way, all the noisy little pieces travel down to that end, clamoring, clacking, clapping the sides of the tube.
Tip the tube back the other way, send the pieces scattering, skittering, scraping the other direction.
Yes, their chorus is identical to a rainstick, except, I am unable to put the rainstick away, so that all is quiet.
These weeks are not quiet.
These weeks are deafening.
Yes, my ears repeat, reverberate, resound with cicada cries.
I took a short video of the cicadas this week in my front yard ash tree, which is "cicada central" right now:
Look closely, you will see hundreds of cicadas moving up and down the branches, and flying about. Truly, their sound is SO LOUD. It is near impossible to have conversations outside, nor is it comfortable to have these little harmless goofs come flying into you, over and over, while you dare to be outside. There is so much commotion, I am unable to think straight.
Yet, it is wildly captivating. I can't get enough of these little and rare beings. They are strangely riveting!