I started thinking about cicadas a little while ago - specifically, a certain brood that emerges once every 17 years.
A short nature lesson: Cicadas mate, lay eggs and promptly die. The nymphs suck on tree roots for 17 years, emerge from the ground, and the cycle starts over.
The first brood popped out the year I came to The Press as a reporter. Seventeen years later, in 1996, I was editorial-page editor. At that time, I wrote a piece updating the new brood on what had happened to the area during the years they were underground - how changed Atlantic City was since 1979. There was a gleaming new convention center, rail terminal and casinos. Modern townhouses had risen in the once-blighted northeast Inlet. Things had improved dramatically since the dawn of casino gaming.
And some things, of course, hadn't changed in those 17 years - such as the failure to make Atlantic City into the "family resort" everybody seemed to want it to be.
In just two more years, it will be time for a new brood to emerge - the offspring of the 1996 pack. And so I recently began thinking about what's changed - and what hasn't - since 1996.
And then came this thought: When you're writing editorials in the 17-year lifecycle of a locust, maybe it's time to try something new.
So I'm retiring from The Press, after a terrific 32 years. I plan to spend the summer getting the garden in shape and finding out if I'll ever get a golf ball airborne. Then, maybe I'll decide what else I want to do.
I won't be welcoming the new brood of 2013. But I am hoping that they find an Atlantic City as transformed - for the better - as their parents did. We're at a crucial juncture right now. The recently passed Atlantic City legislation has given the resort a real and a psychological lift, with Revel getting financing and investors giving the town a second look. But that boost is a fragile thing. Everyone - casinos, politicians, residents, other stakeholders - must make the legislation work. Many details are missing, and how they are filled in will be critical.
A note: Don't worry too much about the "family resort" thing. We'll never be Disneyland.
People who read these pages regularly have a pretty good sense of my hopes and fears for this area, the state and the nation. So if I can leave you with one more recommendation, folks, it's this: Keep reading newspapers. If not The Press, then some other.
The key to solving the problems that I've opined on over the years is an informed and engaged electorate that demands leaders do more than present simplistic, polarizing answers. And I worry that the decline of the "mainstream media" - particularly newspapers - is resulting in an electorate that's less informed and more willing to seize on easy answers and sound bites. Those mainstream media, for the most part, are still the best source of the kind of information you need to make rational decisions at the polls and form opinons based on facts and not wishful thinking.
Sound self-serving? Not anymore. I heard something that sounded like the hum of locusts - and that's my swan song.
Carla Linz Callaway is retiring as Press editorial page editor on April 1.