By Kathleen Phillips
Seeing a cicada shell hanging on the face of my concrete statue of Mary last year was startling initially. I had taken a break on a bench next to her while gardening. It’s a place I go to not only for rest from outdoor chores but for respite while doing a little self work.
Mary is there. She’s a 24-inch statue I found on sale at Walmart at least 15 years ago. She was half price. I kept the receipt for years because it showed in print that I had purchased the Virgin Mary for $19.95 plus tax.
I like her as a statue. She’s sturdy and requires absolutely no upkeep. She’s just there. In recent years, I’ve also come to know “The” Virgin Mary and found her also to be sturdy and requiring no upkeep, but in a spiritual way. Yes, she’s the mother of Jesus. What could be any more sturdy and in the background than that?
So, last year when I paused on the bench near her with the intention of some quiet time with God, I was startled out of my serenity as I glanced at Mary and saw a cicada shell clinging to her face. She, of course, was not startled at all -- same stoned-faced gaze toward the soil from whence the cicada apparently emerged.
It was July 20, 2019. I know this only because I snapped a picture and technology dated it. A picture I posted on Facebook drew scores of clever comments from my friends, the best of which was “Mother Mary ... speaking words of wisdom to a beatle. Let it be.”
And that would have been that, until today. A full 365 days later, another cicada determined that emerging from the ground, Mother Mary’s face is the place to shed one’s shell, this time a little closer to her eyes whereas the previous one had chosen her mouth.
It’s still not a pretty site, but something about a second cicada choosing Mary;s face made me pause. There is a huge oak tree right behind her, a yaupon to the side, a privet nearby and an entire flowerbed of Turk’s cap and Jerusalem sage beckoning all manner of birds and insects. Why not shed a shell there, cicada?
Consider that a cicada is left behind by its mother when it’s a mere egg. After hatching, there are no parents around to guide it. Baby cicada just somehow knows it needs to burrow into the ground and remain there – maybe up to 17 years depending on what family it comes from – until time to dig out of the ground and go to the next stage.
Perhaps it knows it has the gift of song and maybe even that people will be on their porches come sundown in the summer just waiting for the choir of a thousand kindred cicadas.
Then imagine emerging into sunlight and seeing a gray woman standing sturdy and asking nothing of you but offering herself, that face ever so more inviting than a tree trunk. And there she stands while you rid yourself of the old shell and become the one you are meant to be.
Regardless of one’s relationship with Mary, the mother of Jesus, I couldn’t help but think of the cicadas finding her on their amazing journey of the life God created them to live. So be it for us, too, as we dig ourselves out of whatever rut we may have been in that we may grow with the benefit of a sturdy spiritual being nearby to help us shed our shells and become who God means us to be.