When we first bought our house, it had been vacant for quite some time. We soon figured out there was a nest of rattlesnakes on the property. The biggest was a good five feet long and decided to make his stand in the garage.
Since then, every California summer yields at least a few serpent challenges. When the heat starts raining down, the rattling starts on every hill and in every ditch of our property. We have been convinced for a couple of years that we have an ongoing issue – after all, we’d not seen any cicadas or anything else that rattles. Just our scaly friends.
We have adopted a proactive practice of destroying anything that seems like a good home for the slithery dangers. We have gear for dealing with the snakes, and we’ve put that gear to good use many times.
This year, our neighbors started talking about the cicadas for the first time – but we haven’t seen even one over the last few years and were skeptical. I played sounds off the Internet, it didn’t sound the same. But there was one particularly loud fellow we couldn’t root out that seemed to be coming from a tree directly in front of our front door… from above. Curious.
In another story, I went to see our small town doctor about my ongoing ankle issue. He’s a lifer in these sticks, the sort of old-timer who has advice on damn near anything you might want to talk about. He’s not a city doctor, constantly in a rush to maximize his number of patients, and he likes to talk. Good man.
So I asked him about the cicadas in California – out in these parts, are we surrounded by a completely invisible rattling insect population?
He said they’re all around us, but that they’re perceptive – they hide on the other side of branches when you come around. And that they sound just like the snakes, that most of what we hear is just those big ol’ fly-looking things. Then he went on to talk about the seven rattlesnake bites he’s treated so far this year, and how to catch the snakes without hurting them.
When we got back from the couple of side-treks the visit created (pharmacy and x-ray lab), there was silence in the hills and trees for three or four days. I was listening closely. Not a peep. A strange coincidence? We’re aware enough of the frequency of the rattling, for sure, especially the one that had been coming from the tree directly in front of the door.
For a time there, it was as though the old-timer’s words had changed the hills somehow.
It started up again two days ago, but shortly after it did a cicada fell off a tree and scrabbled in the dirt just in front of me. A confirmation of the findings. Three years, first cicada seen.
So here’s the thing: how many of your rattlesnakes are just cicadas hiding on the other side of branches? How many harmless things are you misconstruing as threats… and how blind are you as a result?
Did you once face a great threat and now look for it everywhere? How much of the threat you perceive is purely inside of you?
And have you asked your old-timers?