When I was a little girl growing up in New Jersey I remember a cluster of summer mornings spent walking to the pool. On the backs of cicadas. I tried to sidestep them. It was like trying to avoid air. Then, I was disgusted by the crunch under foot as I squeezed my face small, focusing on the cold, blue water and mustard-covered pretzels that awaited me. Today, I would spend those same hours of play watching them, hearing them, and letting their song take me back 17 years, much like an old song permanently attached to a distant memory.
Razzle (she of Mt. Whitney fame) planned an 18 mile hike through the Delaware Water Gap as part of our 2 day reunion during this time the dudes and I are spending in the East, complete with the opportunity to swim in Sunfish Pond. Distance hiking has been hard to pull off lately; I was thrilled to have the chance to put some miles on my legs. With a fitful sleep behind me, we departed near sunrise to head north and west. (Oh, gee, look, a nod to the Kim and Kanye baby.)
As with childbirth, when one moves to the west coast the memory of emerging into a hot and humid morning – like falling into pudding left on the counter overnight – fades with time. I was going to sweat on this hike, something that doesn’t always happen in Marin. The ascent proved it true as gnats gathered about my head. Razzle delighted in her petite stature, making her less attractive to the vermin.
My never-ending vessel of compassionate love is tapped when it comes to these black balls that head straight for my eyes, mouth and nostrils. I spent the first two miles batting them away and getting to know the two friends who joined us to make a quartet of women elated by the journey ahead.
We powered up the steep start to our hike, alongside a full stream that cascaded down over gray rocks streaked with soft, green algae, it’s destination the Delaware River. Sunlight broke through trees covered with fully grown leaves. The trails were quiet. Then, as we merged into the Appalachian Trail and came out onto the crest, the quiet was overtaken by the lust to mate.
The 17 Year Cicadas tunneled out of the ground, shed their skins and acted like they were on a singles cruise, flitting from one potential mate to the other. The males chatted up the ladies, looked for a hair flip, or in this case a wing twitch, and if the timing was right they got it on.
We pushed past cairns erected like the Jersey version of Stonehenge, through wild blueberry bushes and ducked to avoid being picked up like it was last call. Then I saw him. He flew right at my chest.
Landing between my breasts, we gazed upon each other, inches apart. My eyes bloodshot with sweat and the body parts of gnats, his bulging and red, because that’s how he was born. And then he sang. I felt the vibration on me and in me. It made me giggle. But then I came to my senses.
I am not the mate you seek, I said. Not on the market, and not your kind of girl. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with you. You’re small and winged. And crunchy. I don’t know the first thing about how you mate. Goodness, I don’t even know where your penis is! Besides, I’d crush you.
Off the red-eyed little beast flew to find someone less complicated. And smaller.
As the miles ticked off, our quartet shuffled, Razzle leading, me bringing up the rear. Sometimes walking side-by-side when the trail widened. Spreading out as we boulder-hopped, then gathering again to pause for pictures. Revealing thoughts and stories were shared, even though I had not met our two trail mates before. The words spoken were words that needed to be heard about healing hearts and ascending spirits. We left the small talk, what little there was, in the car and let the rhythm of our feet and the wings of cicadas tease forth personal tales of heartache and the blossoming that comes with acknowledging our own magic.
Without the distractions of everyday life, the trail helps me to listen on many levels. To the words spoken, the message as intended by the one speaking, and the message intended by the Universe. My ears were being filled with beautiful sounds, made prettier by the vibrations of the Earth and those that buzzed above it.
Most potent was a conversation about discovering and embracing one’s spiritual awakening. It’s something that I’ve been struggling with lately. I see the magic, I follow the cadence of Nature, I let it guide me, I believe it. I know the messages come for very specific reasons, I hear my intuition as if it is mouth-first into a megaphone planted over my entire head. I have ah-ha moments that I honor and never, ever question. The details of the trials and tribulations of daily life are to be interpreted not rehashed. I see what others feel, I feel what others see.
Yet I feel uncomfortable saying, This is who I am. I am an empath.
It took me 20 boulders to get that one out of my mouth as one of Razzle’s friends, a Reiki practitioner, spoke of her awakening. It’s the first time I spoke it out loud. Always the same inner dialogue runs rampant as I have tried in the past to push those simple words from my mouth.
Who are you to think you have these abilities? It’s made up. Simple intuition and nothing more. (Tears are streaming as I type these words.) You’re not special enough to be gifted. You just think you are.
A scene from November 2011 crashed inside my head. The Genius and me sitting at a table outside of a tapas restaurant in the French Quarter of San Francisco, a long and narrow courtyard strung with lights, the sounds of cutlery and plates and voices bouncing off the wall of a building blocking out the sounds of a city. Little candles flickered. Plates of snails and mushrooms and cockles on the round table. We sat side-by-side. Couples in love in stark contrast to our emotional state sat before us.
This particular evening, right in the midst of the Cleo-bashing Era (It’s all your fault.), left its mark upon my psyche – a wound at first, but now a vortex. Before realizing the duration and extent of his adultery, my goal was to do the best I could to understand where we stumbled so that we could right each other for the sake of our family and because I believed we were meant to spend this entire journey together. My head and heart kept gravitating towards the Hawk’s view – Why did we create this? I recall saying something like, This is in the 3D, meaning the adultery. We have a special connection that encompasses so much more than just two married people plowing through life.
I wanted to vibrate right out of my chair, and he wanted to keep fork and knife in each hand, planted hard to the table.
You are such an elitist.
Or something to that effect emerged from his mouth. I couldn’t understand what he meant. And now I do. That was his perception. And, as we all know, perception IS reality. Not a snapshot, not a fleeting thought, not a misguided assessment of the present moment, but reality. He is entitled to his opinion. But more than that, I understand his opinion. I am not an elitist, but I can see how he would feel as if that were true. Being an empath is a gift in the very same way being able to design buildings is a gift. Or speak a foreign language. Or cook like Thomas Keller. Being an empath does not make me an elitist. (That said, I’m not sure what it makes me.)
Still on the crest of a mountain ridge, the sun hot on my sweat-soaked head, I heard the buzz of wings, and if I followed the sound I would see a cicada lift itself out of a blueberry bush on transparent, vein-filled wings and fly through the air like Nature’s version of a B2 Bomber.
The woman with the gentle eyes and glossy black hair and Reiki hands began to talk about the vibrational changes in and on the planet. How a shift, or split, has occurred. One aspect of the earth is dense, humming along on a low frequency and the other is vibrating on a higher frequency.
I know this. Inside. I’ve known it since moving west. Actually, I’ve believed it since moving west. I’ve known it for years.
I promise not to get all space-agey on you. (Is this me trying to make excuses again? Wanting you not to think I’m crazazy?)
As I witnessed in my head that dinner from months ago while she spoke of vibrators, I mean vibrations, The Genius’ criticisms of me weren’t barbs he threw but words of love from myself to me:
Don’t cry. In time, celebrate. Don’t mourn. Accept that your marriage is not a failure but a period in time with a soul who agreed to join with you, and now that time has come to its natural end. You no longer vibrate with the same frequency.
Neither is better or more special or cooler or weirder than the other. It’s like choosing to major in electrical engineering or art history. Just different. And with different types of lessons to be learned. Neither better or more special or cooler or harder or more or less enlightening than the other.
The Genius and I chose different majors. You will not and cannot remain joined. It’s physically, emotionally and psychically impossible.
(I wish we had realized this before he betrayed me, but that’s a normal, human desire.)
On the return leg of our hike we came to Sunfish Pond, a lake really. A funnel of feelings, sensations and thoughts whirled inside me. I stripped down and put on my bathing suit. Alone, I slid over the rocks that met the shore and pulled myself through the cold water until I floated in the middle of the lake. A half dozen people frolicked on the edge to my right. The lake itself was ringed with clumps of mountain laurel covered in pale pink flowers that up close looked like the sun umbrellas of dainty ladies in Osaka.
After I let go of the need to imagine a massive snapping turtle grabbing me by the ribcage and dragging me to his lair deep in the cloudy green water, I gave thanks. Gratitude does wonders for irrational thoughts. The sensation of the beginning of a second half, not just the second half of the year but of my life, filled me. I felt truly comfortable in my skin. Not because I could strip naked on the shore and put on my suit without worrying who would approach on the trail. Because, like the cicada, I shed the cage that represented my nymph stage (Those with a racy sense of humor have most certainly made a wisecrack about nymphomaniacs. Don’t let me down.) and began the process of accepting, welcoming a rebirth.
That night, under a super moon that rose on the heels of double rainbows that lingered for an hour or more, I splashed about in Razzle’s pool with her beautiful, spirited children. Their enthusiasm for Marco Polo energized me. It was as if I hiked a mile.
As if I hiked my very first mile.
Yesterday, in preparing to write this post, I looked up the totem meaning for cicada, discovering that the 17 Year Cicada is of the genus Magicicada.
I read snippets of the meaning to my Mom who sat across from me at her kitchen table, probably playing solitaire on her iPad. (It matters not the age – iPads are for gamers.)
Encourages one to look beneath the surface to uncover hidden truths, delve into the underworld without fear, call on the cicada to understand the truth about reality and illusion, signifies major changes – death, rebirth. Signifies the shedding of what no longer serves the soul’s evolution as part of the rebirthing cycle. The end. And the beginning.
I froze. Then counted on my hands. I grabbed a pen and made sure by writing down each year and then counting them again. Once more to be sure. (My hands are shaking as I type.) 1997, 98, 99, 2000, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 2007, 08, 09, 10, 2011, 12, 13…
17 years ago I married The Genius.