Music and the Food of Life

Life at Full Moon seems to be recovering well following our long weeks of drought. We mourn our losses, but tend the living, grateful for the blooms and vegetables that survived. For now.

I was weeding in the garden yesterday and enjoyed the thrumming hum a variety of bees made as they buzzed from plant to plant. A bumblebee climbed a licorice spire of hyssop with concentrated intensity.

Butterflies fluttered through, barely lighting on blossoms before sailing off; the birds seemed to be having choral practice at the feeder and consuming sunflower seeds in spectacular quantities.

It seems the music of life becomes more intense as we edge nearer to autumn’s first frost, and the Great Silence of winter hushes all for a time. (I’ve often wondered, though, if snowflakes fall to a music that flows in wavelengths beyond our auditory capacity.)

The evening symphony of crickets, cicadas, and katydids has pulsed throughout the night this week, like Poe’s tintinnabulation of bells. I love their silvery percussive music and am grateful our cooler weather allows windows to be open.

This morning I went out to water plants on the deck and discovered the milky latex from the rubber tree’s stem dripping onto some leaves below the point of injury. Looking more closely, I discovered a female katydid nestled in a leaf’s crevice, and suspected katydid it. 

I later learned there are more than 100 varieties of katydids in our country and over 4,000 throughout the world. My visitor was of the genus and species Scudderia furcata: a Fork-tailed Bush katydid, and a cousin to crickets. She’d likely deposited eggs in a stem or leaf of the rubber plant, slitting it with her ovipositor and thus releasing the latex.

If so, nymphs will emerge next spring and, after successive molts, mate and deposit their own eggs a year from now.

All of life in a year.

My katydid isn’t a musician. In her species, only the male sings by rubbing a scraper on one forewing against a toothed edge on the other (stridulation). She heard her mate’s call through tympana, hearing organs located on her forelegs. It gave me pause to imagine our world if humans spoke and heard like katydids! But maybe we’re not all that different; after all, Phillip’s music and voice served as quite an attractant when I first heard him sing.

I missed the music of the birds and insects during the drought. It seemed to wither and withdraw. Its absence didn’t offer the peaceful, centered silence of meditation; it was more like a vacuum existed where once there had been sound, an element of life that connected us and made our spirits whole had abandoned us. If there were calls and songs, they sounded brittle, thirsty and desperate.

But the great music of life that calls us to merge, to love, to eat, drink, and make merry has returned and I’m almost as thankful for this as I am for the restorative rains.

I like the music for its honesty and lack of false sentiment: it says, “Come to me and we’ll marry our energy to create more life together.” It acknowledges that sometimes this is done though mating and at other times through surrender.

Katydids prey upon plants and slower-moving insects like aphids. They have an extra pair of miniature legs dangling from their chins, like built-in silverware, to help them efficiently consume their energy, in whatever form it takes. Birds, bats, small mammals and, in some cultures, people, eat the katydid.

The clematis died in the drought and has been feeding microbes for weeks. The vegetables that didn’t die will soon be on our table and in the freezer.

All this beauty, all this lovely music, all these relationships…all seeking to mate and create, to eat, or to accept capture and so transform one’s energy into others’ food, an ending none of us escapes.

Sweet, devouring life: all of us fed and feeding. Death just means someone or something’s been granted a feast. Nature imposes her balanced justice: in the end, we all become another’s banquet.

But first, we make and merge the music of our lives, which is to say the music of loving our way through droughts and into seasons of peace and joy. Once more round the circle. All the music of creation is perhaps a way of saying, “Thank you” to Love, just for the chance to sing and hear the songs of our spinning planet.

One day something will sing for its supper and it will be me. (“I” would be the correct grammar; I don’t think that will matter then.) May they be as grateful for the meager meal I offer as I have been for the bounty offered to me. And may what remains of my energy offer sustenance in love…

If music be the food of Love, play on.

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12 thoughts on “Music and the Food of Life

  1. As always a wonderful description of life and nature and the connections they all weave. I always enjoy your words and the visions they create. Glad some of your garden food survived for you to enjoy! I think this winter I shall take closer attention and see if indeed there is music playing through the stillness….Thanks! VK

    • Thank you, Ogee; I appreciate your visits and kind comments: yes, rain has been falling about once a week this month, which is like a birthday celebration every week, and enough to keep everything green. VERY grateful, and more on the way tonight! Hooray! 🙂

  2. What a beautiful post, Catherine, you had me at the title, and you’ve explored the apt metaphor so beautifully and thoughtfully. I love the sound of the cicadas and tree frogs here – it is the sound of August and I treasure it every year. Good to hear that your world is recovering from the drought.

    “I’ve often wondered, though, if snowflakes fall to a music that flows in wavelengths beyond our auditory capacity.” Oh, yes, absolutely. 🙂

    • Thank you, Lynn; I’m happy a specialist has confirmed my hopes! Can you imagine the symphony of a snowfall from first flake to last swirl? (Of course you can!) Blessings on your new semester; I’d love to be heading into a classroom again!

  3. I just loved this female grosbeak. She and I became friends this summer; I probably have 100 photos of her and on many of them, you can tell she’s looking right into my camera! I love her plumage, too; the males are such scene-stealers with their red breasts, but think her design is very intricate and pleasing, too. Thank you, Amma/Robin!

  4. OOH, truly beautiful writing, this is a gem of thoughts and words and getting the ineffable on paper. Snow symphony. Do you know Jeanette Winterson’s “The Passion”?
    So glad for the rain.
    Blessing on you and your synapses!

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