Each year when the high vibrating song of the cicadas fills the trees, I am taken back to the summers of my childhood and one particular day about 30 years ago.
My grandfather Arnel Bilbrey was a farmer, a trapper and ginseng hunter, a gentle, generous, dark-haired man who had developed Alzheimer's disease.
Day after day, he sat under the big sugar maple tree in the backyard, wearing loose denim overalls that had been worn thin with work. Only now there was no work for him to do.
So we would sit, he in his chair and I in the swing he had hung from a sturdy branch of the tree.
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Sometimes we would talk, or he would chat with the crow that made daily visits to him as though it knew he needed the company.
Mostly, though, we just sat, and on this afternoon, we were treated to a show I have never forgotten.
I don't remember which of us saw it first, but there on our tree trunk crawled a cicada not yet hatched from its shell.
I had long enjoyed collecting the crunchy brown husks cicadas left behind, but never had I seen one moving. It had just crawled out of the dirt looking like a tiny brown robotic buffalo.
"A dry fly!" PawPaw exclaimed.
We watched for what seemed like hours, and might really have been, as the insect broke free from its shell and crawled out onto the bark.
At first its wings were crinkled up and white, but slowly they unfurled until they were long and flat, beautifully veined in bright green.
That, PawPaw thought, was how dry flies got their name: They had to sit and let their wings dry before flying away.
It was a moment of lucidity for him, a precious hour of marvel shared only by two members of the household with nothing important to do.
Recently, on a visit to my mother's home in Logan County, I got to watch for the first time in three decades as a cicada made its way into the world.
My 7-year-old son, Caleb, had been gathering cicada shells as I had once done, and he listened as my mom told him how she had pretended long ago they were her herd of miniature cows.
She peered into the large plastic cup he'd filled almost to the top and noticed one in particular.
Unlike the translucent shells around it, this one had a greenish cast.
Realizing his mistake, Caleb took the shell with the cicada still inside back to the tree, and we watched as it crawled out into the sunshine.
For hours that day, we periodically went back to check its progress, until it was time to head home to Lexington.
Mom checked the tree early that evening and reported that the cicada had flown away.
It reminded me of the need to slow down and watch the tiny wonders of the world.
And it makes me long for the day when I will leave my own shell behind ... to join PawPaw in the summertime chorus.