Wednesday, August 25, 2010

“It sang itself utterly away.”

“Every summer, when I was home for the holidays, I would often sit and listen to the piercing song of the cicadas and find myself falling into a strangely sorrowful mood. It was as if sorrow crept into my heart with the cry of these insects. And I would stay absolutely still, thinking of my own loneliness.” ~ Kokoro, Natsume Soseki.


My new apartment is directly between the train tracks and a major road, which means there’s not much greenery around it. Normally I’d consider that a huge minus in a living space, but this time of year I’m realizing how lucky it is.

My last apartment, you see, had bushes behind it, and as such in the summer I could not sleep at all for the deafening song of the cicadas. Here, as the trees are at a distance, it is much less intrusive. It is not that it is an unpleasant sound – I will often sit in the park with a book on a bench surrounded by it. As though no other sound ever existed, and one will never hear another sound again. It is like the chlorine water when submerged in a swimming pool, it fills every part of you. Beautiful at times like that, but I prefer my bedchamber to be more peaceful.


Cicadas are a popular symbol in Japanese literature and art. It comes out of the ground, moults and leaves its dry husk behind, sings for a brief season, mates and then dies. So it represents all their favorite themes of rebirth and brevity of life. What the cherry blossoms are for spring, cicada are for summer. Which possesses the greater beauty, however, is up for debate.

No comments: