A Cicada and a Palette Knife

It’s hot tonight and when we sat down to dinner we left the balcony doors wide open in the hope of a breeze. A cicada saw the gap and came right on in to see what all the light was about.

“That’s what happens when everything’s open and the lights are on,” my mom said as she ate her burger.

For those who don’t know, cicadas are big insects (this one was at least the size of my thumb including the knuckle). Cidadas, as my dad mentioned, use sound as a weapon. They are LOUD. “Our” cicada crashed from wall to pitched roof to plant to cabinet, back to the roof – and so it went.

“Turn off the lights,” my mom said. “Open the courtyard doors.”

“You’re just issuing instructions,” my dad said, releasing the latch of the doors. “I’m the only one that’s doing anything”.

This was the wrong thing to say to a woman that had made black bean burgers from scratch.

“I mean relating to the insect,” my dad corrected.

Jess then appeared at the top of the stairs, having put Kit down. She opened the door and her eyes began to follow the alarming insect flying around the room at pace.

To this day, there are few things I find funnier than watching someone react to an insect they think is on them. I tried this with Jess, shouting, “Watch out for your face”, and then roared with laughter, even though she didn’t react all that much (not because she is nonchalant about insects – she is chalant about them – but because she didn’t believe my cry wolf). (As a side story: A few years ago, I was en route to a post-wedding brunch in an Uber with the back window down and a loctus flew into the car and onto my top. The screaming that ensued from my friend next to me and my friend in the front seat, sent me into hysterics.

My friend then shouted, “I don’t understand why we’re still driving! Stop the car. Stop the car”.

The Uber pulled over and I jumped out to place the locust on the verge and then thought better of it, turning abruptly and pretending to throw it back into the car. Pandemonium …

Back to “our” cicada – back to Plett.

Jess took her place at the table and we all sat there, watching and listening to the cicada jet around the room. Then silence. The cicada took a break or got stuck in some nook, and we thought that was the end of that, but she started up again. And then, WHOA, it lands on my mom’s bare arm. Now you must understand that my mother lived in Londolozi, in the greater Kruger National Park, for many years. For a time, my parents literally lived in a mud hut. This is not the first large insect encounter. But it’s ON. HER. ARM.

Moira doesn’t scream – she stands up, stretches her arms backwards in something that resembles a crouched power pose and does a fast walk outside through the open doors to the garden. Only there and only then does she let out a yelp. Apparently it flew from her arm to her hand and pinched her.

Moira returns to the table with the look of someone that knows they have just demonstrated great calm in a high pressure situation.

“I wanted it outside”, she says, after we all compliment her on her composure.

Photograph of the day: My mother is a painter and this a photograph of one of my favorite pieces of hers. It’s not the full painting but a cropped version of it and – truth told – doesn’t do justice to how beautiful the painting is. The painting hangs above the bed in Jess and my room in Plett. I once asked Moira if I could have this painting (I have other really beautiful works of hers). Moira said no. I would also say no. The interesting thing about this painting is that it was my mom’s first ever painting with a palette knife. As I understand it, you have a lot less control with a palette knife. The benefit of that loss of control is a freedom – movement. My mom once asked her teacher, looking back at this painting, how she managed to paint so well with the palette knife on that first go. Her teacher told my mom that when she painted it, she didn’t know how difficult a palette knife was. She just did it.


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