That right there is a 33 ½ rpm vinyl phonograph record called Sound of Insects. It includes tracks like “Viceroy Butterfly Walking” and “Mud-dauber Wasp in Flight.” It is by far the most incredibly perfect gift I have ever received.
I got it from the Tech Old Timers, a group of retired former students, faculty, and staff at my almer mater, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). The Old Timers gather once a month on campus to socialize and explore new ideas through invited speakers. Yesterday, their new idea was citizen science, and their invited speaker was me.
I can’t even tell you how wonderful the morning was. It included conversations with old friends (Dean Trask! Professor Bleumel!), the making of new ones, the sharing of passions, and a reminder of just how long and deep and interesting and interested my WPI family is. At the end of the morning, the Old Timers gave me this album, and I am still—a day later—stunned at its aptness. I have no doubt that once I find a record player, the sounds captured in the album’s grooves will bring me joy; I’m a true insect geek. But it will also remind me, each and every time I play it, of the way learning transcends discipline and gender and time and age.
In fact, I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’ll be bringing this record back to WPI one day. Perhaps when I’m an Old Timer myself. I’ll drag along whatever beaten up old record player I eventually find, and I will tell my new Old Timer buddies about the day, back in the spring of 2012, when I hung out with the old Old Timers. I’ll recall the connections, share again the same funny stories I heard yesterday. Maybe I’ll know a little something more about beetles by then, and I’ll tell what I know. Eventually I’ll drop a needle onto Sounds of Insects and play a few tracks. “Japanese Beetle on a Ruse,” or maybe “Cicada Warmup and Flight.”