By Christopher Cudworth
There’s an audio joke that involves chirping crickets. Often it implies that the person who has been asked a question does not know the answer. Instead we hear “silence” or the sound of chirping crickets, as if no one were home or able to answer the question.
Another derivation of the same chirping cricket joke involves the stupidity of the person actually asking the question. In other words, the question was so dumb that it doesn’t deserve an answer. Hence, chirping crickets.
What crickets know
If you walk out the door in August and listen carefully, chirping crickets are everywhere. This is the height of cricket breeding season, you see, and crickets are chirping because they are protecting their territories. In truth they sing because that’s the way they avoid fights in which they bite each other’s heads off.
So the sound of chirping crickets is really an answer that precedes all questions. They sing to avoid killing each other, and then sing until the first frost, and then know no more.
Crickets in Jeopardy
But if the answer this time of year is crickets every time you step out the door, then the response should function just like the TV game show Jeopardy.
What is August?
You now know the answer. August is answers that precede the question. August is the end of summer and the beginning of fall. August is the bridge between being and knowing. It is the tarsnake of seasons.
August is runners and cyclists squeezing in hard bits of training in preparation for the fall racing season. August is exhaustion and enervation. August is preparation and consternation. August is love in the heat under a rising moon, and mists in the deep valleys that tell you autumn is coming.
August is birds unleashed from breeding season to become wanderers that actually head north before heading south for fall. We find scissor-tailed flycatchers fluttering around Illinois because they left their southern domains and there is not yet any hurry to go anywhere. Insects are abundant. The first frost is weeks away. August is a haven for the restless spirit.
August is almost over as these words are being written, and that means Labor Day, the traditional transition from summer to fall. No more white belts, as if anyone wears those anymore. Or white slacks, which also seem a rarity. Don’t even talk about seersuckers
August is about letting it out and then reigning it back in. We drink a little too much on weekends and crawl into work sucking coffee down to make it through the day.
August is one last summer getaway to the lake cabin where the evenings genuinely do feel cooler. It is also sitting in traffic with the rest of the world on your way home on a Sunday with music blaring. It drowns out the sounds of crickets in the roadside ditches because in truth we don’t really want to hear those answers that precede the questions.
August is Serenity and Inevitability
August is, and always will be, the confrontation between being and knowing.
The crickets know that.