The cicadas are going crazy in the sycamore trees as well as in the oaks and honey locusts and catalpas. This is the sound of high summer, the remarkable acoustic talents of the cicada with its wide-set large eyes and veined transparent wings. Male cicadas have loud noisy timbals on the sides of their abdomens and they collapse their abdominal muscles and membranes to turn their bodies into resonance chambers. At the same time they wiggle back and forth on the tree they are perched on, a kind of high-spirited drumming dance at the hottest time of the day because cicadas love dry heat. They sing different songs: a distress call if one of them is attacked; a number of different mating songs to attract different kinds of mates; and a courtship song to welcome the female who arrives to join the lonely jiver. In Aesop’s Fables the nonchalant cicada sings all summer long while the diligent ant stores food. Unfortunately the cicada can live up to 17 years while the ant, well, doesn’t.
To know what a the sensuous buzz of a cicada sounds like, put a brown paper bag over your head and hum along to Amy Winehouse singing Valerie while thumping your midriff with a soft fist and thinking pleasurably dirty thoughts. The kind of exercise you can only do sober and at home alone — don’t try this in public, people.
There are too many lonely people in this village. Last night we had somebody over for supper because she lives alone and goes up to the library each day just to see human faces and quarrel with the librarians. The spectrum of schizo-affective disorders is vast, and vastly misunderstood. Shelley, as I shall call her, ate her roast chicken with a spoon and talked only to the dogs. They empathised more attentively and affectionately than any human could ever manage. It was a wonderful evening and I was reminded that when our hearts break a little they open wide to other understandings of gift.
I’m still thinking about memory, echoing the one and only Proust:
“When from a long distant past nothing persists, after the people are dead, after things are broken and scattered, still alone, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long, long time like souls, ready to remind us, waiting, hoping for their moment amid the ruins of all the rest, and bear unfaltering in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence the vast structure of recollection.”
The agapanthus are flowering all around the Cape and in every village garden. Agapanthus from agape, the Greek word for a pure and selfless love, a tall-stemmed flower with a cluster of electric blue or sparkling white flowers. I catch my breath each time I see them. If heaven is not a garden I shall come back to earth and just listen to cicadas for an indolent eternity. How good it is to be sober.