Sunday, October 24, 2021

The grasshopper is no burden, yet.


     The summer is over, gone, the cold gathering, settling in. Leaves are already dead, falling, and yet I haven't mentioned one of the most notable events of the whole season, now past. I saw this grasshopper, hidden among the leaves of my Persian Spear. I don't remember ever seeing a grasshopper in years and years. Crickets, yes, cicadas, God knows. But this fellow, straight out of Aesop. I had just enough time to frame a photo and he was gone.
     I believe it is a differential grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis) based on the distinctive "inverted chevrons along the hind femur." But there are 11,000 varieties of grasshoppers, at least, so I am open to the idea that I might be mistaken.       
     Had I been thinking quickly, I might have reached out and crushed it. 
 Grasshoppers are notorious pests, going back to the Bible. "The grasshopper shall be a burden." (Not to confuse them with locusts, which are similar, physically, but have even worst culinary habits. Think of locusts as grasshoppers gone bad).
     But no, upon reflection, I probably would not have done that, even had it crossed my mind. Too beautiful. Besides, they gobble ragweed too.
     That quote from the Bible is deceptive, as quoting o
ut of context so often is. That line, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, part of a memorable passage about advancing age. Here is the entire thing, taken from the New King James version, 12:1, with a few, ahem, alterations of my own, done to enhance comprehension 

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
“I have no pleasure in them.”
While the sun and the light,
The moon and the stars,
Are not darkened,
And the clouds do not return after the rain;
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
And the strong men bow down;
When the grain grinders cease because they are few,
And those that look through the windows grow dim;
When the doors are shut in the streets,
And the sound of work is low;
When one startles at the cry of a bird,
And all the daughters of music are brought low.
Also they are afraid of heights,
And of terrors in the way;
When the almond tree blossoms,
The grasshopper is a burden,
And desire fails.
For man goes to his eternal home,
And the mourners go about the streets.
     Quite grim, I know, particularly when the faith in God isn't on the table as balm and narcotic. "When the almond tree blossoms" is an allusion to white hair. And the grasshopper reference isn't because of their crop-devouring, or incessant chirping. It's their lightness. Older people are plagued by grasshoppers means eventually even your light burdens are difficult.
      Hmm, how do I pull out of this one? Maybe by quoting scripture of a different sort. When Warren Zevon was dying, he said a variety of very smart things. He talked up poetry, carrying a copy of Rilke's "Duino Elegies" with him. He kept working. "Work is the most effective drug there can possibly be," he said. True dat. And when David Letterman asked him what he had learned from the cancer that would kill him at age 56, he replied, 'How much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich." Do that, or try to.


  1. thanks for that Neil . I have no faith in god but am buoyed by the notion of the universality of experience expressed in this passage.

  2. Great reminder to savor life now. I’ll sure try today!

  3. Well, that was not at all the ride that I figured the swell photo of a purple plant and grasshopper was going to take us on, I gotta say.

    But, EGD is like a box of chocolates, of course.

    Between the dead leaves falling, the drizzly gray weather, and the almond tree blossoming on my face, it's none too cheery around here at the moment, but it's just about time for a sandwich...

  4. Yes, they are destructive pests, well-known for destroying crops. As a kid, my cousin and my sister and I grew tired of crushing them, so we found other ways to dispatch them. Years later, my sister told me that the smell of weed smoke reminded her of our childhood grasshopper pogroms. And she was right.

    No grasshoppers in your leafy suburban paradise, Mister S? Maybe it's become too urbanized. They thrive in fields and prairies, usually appearing in late August, and disappearing by Halloween. When I was a teen-ager, in the early and mid-Sixties, we had a series of hot and dry summers, which only increased their numbers. The brick walls of our ranch house were covered with them, because they love the warmth of the sun.

    Cleveland just had its second-wettest summer ever, but September and early October were dry and unusually warm. So the hiking trails in the parks were full of active "hoppers"...more than I can remember seeing in years. I'm rather surprised that you never see any. They are very common. Some outdoor cats will devour both crickets and grasshoppers...or bring home partially-eaten ones.

  5. It's occurred to me more than once that some of the ancient authors of the Old Testament didn't believe in Jahweh any more than the ancient Greek playwrights believed in Zeus, their ruminations more psychological than theological, more practical than prayerful.



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