The lightning bugs are long gone. They started to disappear when the days first began to get shorter, when you didn’t even notice that each day the sun set a few minutes earlier than the day before. You don’t remember when you last stepped out the back door and saw an isolated flash by that cluster of honeysuckle. Now it’s the crickets. When you turn out the lights and go to bed you can hear them trilling, a low hum mostly muted by the walls. They’ve been going all summer but now they’re louder. They only go silent for a moment when you pass by. If you stop and wait they start up again.
The evenings are cooler. The temperature has dipped enough that when you step out the patio is sharp against your bare feet. The crickets are still going. On cloudy days you even hear them at noon when you go out for a walk. The rain doesn’t stop them.
In darkness you climb the hill. When you look up the trees are still inkblots on the blue backdrop of night but the crunch of freshly dried leaves tells you that won’t last long. This is the country. It’s supposed to be quiet, but the noise of katydids is overwhelming. Close your eyes. You can see them chant. It’s like static, but regular, rhythmic, a pulse that lights up just inside your eyes. Remember when you were thirteen, the intensity, the urgency you felt? Compress that into days. That’s what it is for them. They have one thing to do but so little time. So little time. This night may be all they have.
You come down the hill. Your eyes are fuzzy. You stumble over rocks, over roots, you walk slowly out of respect for your own brittle bones. Where you once flew you now step carefully. That feeling of urgency has passed.
You understand why this time of year is called fall.