There’s this moment at dawn in summer when, instantaneously, the kihikihi (cicadas) start to sing. All of them. In unison. Like someone flicked a switch. They somehow know when to act.

It’s not a swell, like one or two start and the rest follow, it’s just instant.

I’m often awake when that happens, and I find myself wondering, how? How do they know? What happens to signal to every one of them to start, NOW?

What’s the signal?

It can’t be temperature, because some mornings are cool and some nights are warm, but they still do the thing, every summer’s day.

It’s not visual based on when the sun reaches a point in the sky, or even reaches a certain level of illumination. Because for that to be true, every kihikihi would have to be out in the open, and they’re not.

There isn’t one of them signalling to the others: Yo! Time to sing! Tahi, rua, toru, whā…! Because, like I said, it’s instant. Like an on/off switch.

I think it’s a feeling

So there must be something they just feel.

Some built-in instinct, triggered by something environmental. 

So, they must be feeling for it. For the change. For the signal.

Yes, I’m sure I could google it and find the scientific explanation. Don’t wanna.

Instead, I find myself thinking of a kupu Māori (a Māori word) that I love: rongo.

Rongo is a sensory word. It can mean hear, smell, taste, feel – basically any of the senses except sight. So to rongo is to sense or feel.

Kei te rongo au – I feel, I sense

A while back I was at home on Aotea Great Barrier and there were police in our bay executing a warrant looking for drugs. As the daughter of a retired police officer, my instincts are to trust the police. I feel safe with them. So, even when six of them walked down my drive with really big weapons in their hands, I only half-arsed putting my hands in the air. I hadn’t done anything wrong, so I knew they couldn’t be coming for me. 

I feel safe. Kei te rongo au i te haumaru.

My instincts are that there’s nothing to fear.

When they asked me about the man they were looking for, though, what I thought of him, I said: I don’t trust him. 

I’d say your instincts are pretty good, they replied.

Feel, sense, and trust

Listening to and trusting my instincts, gut, heart – whatever you want to call that knowing – has been part of my journey to becoming powerful in myself. Trusting my instincts to move or not move. Act or not act. Speak or not speak. Go left or right. I believe we can learn to trust in those and recognise the difference between our instincts and our fear or anxiety or other drivers.

So I try to listen. When I feel an urge, a caution, a question what if or should I shouldn’t I, I try to listen to it. I try to dig into it to see where it’s coming from and what it’s telling me.

Kei te rongo au. I feel. I listen. I sense.

And I can only assume that those kihikihi are doing the same. They’re feeling for the change. They’re sensing what’s going on in the air pressure, the temperature, the daylight, and when it feels just right, they act.

We all know the deafening power when they do that.

I know the power when I listen, feel, sense, and then act. It’s so much of why I am where I am today.

Then act.

So, I wonder if you can rongo today. 

I wonder if there’s a feeling, an instinct, a something that you’re not paying attention to?

Rongo. Listen.

Rongo. Feel.

Rongo. Sense.
And then, like the kihikihi, act.