As I contemplate writing about the awesome cigales (cicadas) of Provence, I’m concentrating on the sounds around me that I hear consistently every day or in a particular season. Since I live in a small town, the noises surrounding me are different from the ones in a city. Before we moved, my ears acclimated to the sounds of traffic, sirens, children playing, dogs barking in back yards, and doves.
Now, I hear birds, frogs, trains, dogs, wind in the trees, rain, distant interstate traffic, and silence. My ears tend to get used to my surroundings. I’m glad. Otherwise, the trains would render me sleepless!
On our road trip through France in July, we continued our journey from Andorra to Carcassonne and on into Provence to the village of Rousillon. On a narrow country road, we heard a loud, constant raucous, a rhythmical din, a roar as bold as any train. Actually, we thought it was a train or a roaring river hidden behind the trees. After rolling down the windows, my daughter suggested it was coming from a thousand insects! Mesmerized by the sound and the possibility, we determined to find the source. No, not by traipsing through the woods. We waited to ask our questions, but not for long. Rousillon gave us all of our answers without asking anyone.
The cigale was on many postcards and posters. A postcard explained that the cigale (cicada) is the symbol of Provence, France. We began to see them everywhere, except alive in the trees. In high summer (in July), the insects perform their symphony for hours on end. To me it sounded like a harmony of millions. I guess it could have been. I loved every minute of it, and as with anything heard for a period of time, I became used to it and less disturbed. But I wanted to know more, because the cigale had made it into art forms like soap and paintings and sculptures.
Here are a few facts about these amazing insects of Provence:
- There are about 15 species of cicada in Provence. The provençal cicadas live for four years.
2) The males make the noise to attract females to the tree where they are sitting.
3) The cicada is one of the world’s loudest insects, recording sound of up to 120 decibels.
4) Cicadas are on pottery and fabric, in paintings, sculpted, immortalized in song and novels and drama.
5) In Provence, there are restaurants called La Cigale, but the insect is not a delicacy on the menu as in other countries.
I hope you enjoy these little tidbits about the cicada. I was pleasantly surprised to find an insect receiving so much attention.
Do you have cicadas where you live? I do but nothing like those of Provence.