Small Talk

Chirp thrills

The crickets have been announcing the arrival of summer all week.

If I recall my high school biology, the males rub their wings together and produce a calling song that is species-specific. Females are attracted to the song, and the song repels other calling males in a type of territoriality.

There are a lot of lovesick critters out there, for which I am grateful. The sound is as good as a sleeping pill.  It’s one of those sounds I have an entire childhood of pleasant memories attached to.  The only thing better would be the sound of surf.  The sound of crickets, however, is considerably more affordable.

My summer memories of contentment attached to the cricket’s chirp began with trips to my aunt and uncle’s house. For decades, their house was the only light in the desert, and in the stillness, the only sound you’d hear upon opening the car door would be the cricket chorus.

In rural East County, where I spent my teen years, the arrival of summer was largely heralded by that same cricket tune. It confirmed that school was out, the windows could stay open, and life was good. My only negative cricket experience was during my two years (and a thousand summers) in Palm Springs.

There the crickets had a bad habit of sneaking into my studio apartment, where their singing turned into shrieking as the sound echoed off the tile. Sadly, I burned up a lot of cricket karma as I sucked them up with my vacuum cleaner at 2 a.m.

I may have brought serious bad luck upon myself through my temporary disrespect of the cricket.  At least that’s what my Irish grandmother told me. I submit, however, that things could have been worse for my Palm Spring crickets.  Some cultures crush them up for medicinal purposes, have special cages to keep them in, and let the males fight much like dogs or chickens.

These days I have an entire backyard full of rotting fruit and vegetation for their dining pleasure.  All I ask is that they chase the girls and stay out of the kitchen.  A pretty sweet deal, I’d say.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who loves the sounds of summer. Contact her at

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