Heard from my terrace
You know that old story about how city people can’t fall asleep in the countryside because it’s too quiet? Well, that doesn’t hold water here in the South of France. It is not quiet; all manner of things are making noise. I’m here today to talk about two of the noisemakers: cicadas and frogs.
The cicadas awaken when the sun pops over the hills and begins to warm the earth. All day long, every day through the summer, the cicadas sing their amazing song. That music can get quite loud, up to 120 decibels, enough to damage human ears at close range. The cicada—cigale in French—is among the longest-lived insects, and it is recognized as a symbol of longevity and metamorphosis.
Later in the day, as darkness begins to fall, the cicadas will hand off the musical baton to the singers of the night, the frogs. I’ve always adored the evening serenade of frogs; there is something sweet and gentle about these shy creatures, and hearing them gives me a smile.
We also have carpenter bees: giant, slow-moving black bees that make me think of C-130 military transport planes; the Navy’s Blue Angels call this airplane a “Fat Albert,” which might help paint the picture for you. These bees are all over the place here: solid black with a purplish cast to the wings. They are busy but shy, and they don’t tend to sting. I’ve tried to get a photograph of one, but they’re elusive, so you’ll have to use your imagination to picture one.
Walking in the garrigue, summer version
With the humid heat of summer, our walks tend to start around 7:00 am, and we like to be home by no later than 10:00. Leaving at that hour means watching the sun peek over the nearby hills, its warm golden rays extending out to begin heating up the land. It also means a few minutes of quiet before temperatures reach 22C (about 72F), which is the magic moment when the cicadas yawn and stretch and wake up to begin their nonstop singing for another day.
On a recent walk with Maryse and Claude, we were looking for caper plants, because they wanted to take home a harvest of berries for pickling. We also passed a few fig trees, and managed to find some figs to eat on the spot. Figs bloom twice each season; the first bloom leads to fruit that is softer, with a mild flavor. We’re just about to start having fruit from the second bloom, which tends to be only slightly firmer, and with a more interesting flavor. They taste great served with plain yogurt and walnuts, and a tiny amount of honey drizzled on top.
Writings on nature by two authors I like
Timothy Egan: How we treat animals tells us something about how we treat each other
That’s the subhead for an article by one of my favorite authors, Timothy Egan, a fine writer who knows how to tell a good story. Click here to read his view on nature, animals, and how humans live with both.
Kai Skye, who used to be Brian Andreas
He lost a court case to keep his own name, so artist and writer Brian Andreas changed his name. I like what he has to say, and I will continue to quote him from time to time, using his new name of Kai Skye. And here’s one that I think is a good reminder of what it might be like to live your authentic life:
We’re all perfectly capable of being our own kind of beautiful, once we’re willing to set aside an idea of how we have to be.
I often remind myself that there is no sunrise that asks my opinion, no thunderstorm that requires my agreement, no wild thing that kneels at my feet & asks permission for its next steps. My own life, no matter the countless ideas I have about it, is no different than any of these. It is here to live. It’s one of the things I’m seeing more clearly lately: it’s time to trust that. To trust the life in me to have its own kind of grace, its own kind of love, its own kind of beauty. To trust my life to bring its perfectly fine self to this world…
John Lewis, Rest in Peace
The United States has lost one of its most courageous patriots, a true leader, a man of enormous integrity whose moral compass didn’t waver with the changing fashions that come with changing times. Over and over, he risked injury and death for the cause of justice, and along the way he showed all of us how it’s done.
In 2018 he had this to say about peaceful protest:
Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.