The first city I ever lived in was Havana. And of all the weird unpleasantries of living in a run-down socialist metropolis, the thing that unnerved me the most was the lack of bugs. There just weren’t any, and it scared the crap out of me. At the time, I didn’t realize all cities were like that; I assumed Fidel was behind their absence somehow.

I grew up in the rural south, in the foothills of the biologically rich Appalachians, an environment overly blessed with insect life. Summers brought the promise of lightning bugs and crickets, but also the threat of bees–I knew that an entire season of mowing the lawn would result in me running over an underground hive and then sprinting, terrified, across the yard. Not to mention wasps, horseflies, black widows, and ants, although seeing anthills six feet across in the wilds of West Virginia made me realize that even rural ants are pretty much licked by civilization.

Then I moved to Chicago. Even a green city is still a city: our vaunted parks, in which the prairie has been reshaped by landscape architects like Frederick Law Olmsted and Jens Jensen, are just as much a triumph over nature as the Sears Tower and O’Hare, and then once a year we really drive the point home by dyeing the twice-reversed Chicago River green. I realize there are insects here, but I can’t say that I ever notice them, and after several years here I’ve come to miss their presence. Which is why I welcome both the cicadas and the plague of media attention announcing their arrival. Though I may feel differently when they’re driving me off my porch, I’m glad to be here for this minor miracle of the natural world, a reminder that the city is part of a greater ecology.

Then again, if they’re gonna be tagging stuff, that’s not cool.

Picture by Steve Koo from the Chicago Reader Flickr group.