Throughout this month, I’m blogging about my memories of summers past. My mood tends to be at an ebb every summer, and I’m trying to discern if there’s any pattern there. Why does this happen each year? What causes it to be different some years?
So in my last post, about 2014, I remarked that that summer was a fallow time in my journaling, and my writing in general. I pretty much wrote nothing that summer, which I attributed to either being so happy I didn’t feel the need to, or so low I didn’t have the motivation to. Turns out that that was a longer ebb than I expected. My journal goes directly from an entry in January 2013 to the next entry in October 2014. That’s a big jump, over a year and a half. But I do have a theory as to why that happened.
I moved to a new area, and began my ministry at a new church in the fall of 2012. I had been very anxious leading up to the move, and in the immediate aftermath of it, mostly because of all the unknowns surrounding it. But by the time my first summer there came around, I was mostly settled in. And it was a very happy match — I was on the “honeymoon” phase of my ministry. (That’s the first six to eighteen months of a new pastorate, when both pastor and congregation are so excited to have one another. Everyone’s on their best behavior, and conflict is at a real low. It’s a lovely time.) So I think that the summer of 2013 was a good time for me — so much good feeling from the congregation, and I really was starting to love the area we lived in as well. I also know (thanks to my financial software) that the therapist I’d been going to for several years retired in December 2012, and I didn’t feel the need to find another one until September 2014.
So I think things were pretty good with my brain in the summer of 2013. The only things I am sure of that summer are two: first, my wife, my daughter, and I took a trip to Seattle. And second, Brood II emerged.
What’s Brood II? A brood of cicadas, those crazy bugs that show up en masse once every seventeen years. Seemingly out of nowhere, thousands upon thousands of these big grasshopper-like bugs crawl out of the earth, make a holy nuisance of themselves, lay their eggs, and then die. Their larva live underground for seventeen years until the cycle starts again. Different regions have different broods. (For instance, where I lived in Bucks County in the early 2000’s, Brood X emerged in 2004. When that happened, I was absolutely convinced that some major construction was happening in the woods off Bethlehem Pike. Nope — just the sound of seventy billion or so cicadas.)
I am putting the words Brood II in italics and bold because I don’t know how to make them shimmer and shake like ~~oooh scary~~~ because these broods are a nightmare. These bugs rise up like hordes of zombies from the depths of the earth. When they arrive, they arrive like a blanket covering the grass, the forest floor, driveways, sidewalks. They’re everywhere. Luckily, they’re harmless and stupid. They just walk around like morons. But man, it’s like an alien invasion. I’ve heard that early Puritan settlers in America thought they were living through the plague of locusts the year the cicadas arrived. And I can understand how, with no warning or prior experience with them, you could think that.
Anyway, I found them amusing that year. Everything was going so well for me that a horde of red-eyed bugs just made me laugh. The most disturbing thing about it was when I told my four-year-old daughter that she’d be twenty-one when they came back again. Suddenly I had to imagine her at twenty-one, and that freaked me out. But just a little.
So I guess the lesson I can take from 2013 is that the anxiety that newness provides can often lead to joy when I get into a rhythm, and start understanding this new thing better. And not even a swarm of locusts can upset me then. So maybe I can try to find a new thing to try out each year, a new thing to explore. Hmm…