Like the Direction of Sunbeams

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A swarm of honey bees appeared, suddenly and without fanfare, on our old black walnut tree with the tree house. After dusk, a local bee keeper came to brush the majority of them into a cardboard box to take home to a new hive.

A bee swarm is an amazing single-minded organism of thousands of individuals intent on one purpose: survival of the queen to establish a new home for her safety and security, thus ensuring survival for all.  I am grateful they stopped off here at this farm for a bit of a respite, and wish them well under the nurture of a gentle apiarist who, for forty years, has loved, respected and honored bees by working for their well-being.

The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.
~Henry David Thoreau

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One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees…
~Leo Tolstoy

beeswarm2A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July
Is not worth a fly
.
-An Old English Ditty

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When the air is wine and the wind is free
and the morning sits on the lovely lea
and sunlight ripples on every tree
Then love-in-air is the thing for me

I’m a bee,
I’m a ravishing, rollicking, young queen bee,
That’s me.

I wish to state that I think it’s great,
Oh, it’s simply rare in the upper air,

It’s the place to pair
With a bee.

If any old farmer can keep and hive me,
Then any old drone may catch and wife me;
I’m sorry for creatures who cannot pair
On a gorgeous day in the upper air,
I’m sorry for cows that have to boast
Of affairs they’ve had by parcel post,
I’m sorry for a man with his plots and guile,
His test-tube manner, his test-tube smile;
I’ll multiply and I’ll increase
As I always have–by mere caprice;
For I am a queen and I am a bee,
I’m devil-may-care and I’m fancy free,
Love-in-air is the thing for me,

Oh, it’s simply rare
In the beautiful air,
And I wish to state
That I’ll always mate

With whatever drone I encounter,
All hail the queen!

~E.B. White from “Song of the Queen Bee” published in the New Yorker 1945

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I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
~William Butler Yeats, The Lake Isle of Innisfree

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Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.
~Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

 

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…The world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places.
Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you.
Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants.
Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting.
If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee’s temper.
Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t.
Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.

~Sue Monk Kidd from The Secret Life of Bees

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Such bees! Bilbo had never seen anything like them.
“If one were to sting me,” He thought “I should swell up as big as I am!
~J.R.R. Tolkien from The Hobbit

what's left behind this morning, waiting for the beekeeper's return
what’s left behind the following morning, waiting for the beekeeper’s return

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When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee’s house some day.
    -Congo Proverb

from May 2014 (reblog)

If Bees Are Few

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Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.
~Ray Bradbury

Bees are having a rough time of it to the point of making the cover of Time Magazine this summer so when I see a honey or bumble bee doing its job, it is cause for celebration.

The world depends on the revery that brings the spicy smell of pollen from a million flowers to the lowly feet of the bee.
May it be, may it be.

We should only know such reverie.

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, a
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
~Emily Dickinson

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Clover Breath

 “It was the face of spring, it was the face of summer, it was the warmness of clover breath.
Pomegranate glowed in her lips, and the noon sky in her eyes.
To touch her face was that always new experience of opening your window one December morning, early,
and putting out your hand to the first white cool powdering of snow
that had come, silently, with no announcement, in the night.
And all of this, this breath-warmness and plum-tenderness was held forever in one miracle of photographic
is chemistry which no clock winds could blow upon to change one hour or one second;
this fine first cool white snow would never melt, but live a thousand summers.”
Ray Bradbury in Dandelion Wine

Every autumn my father, an agriculture teacher by training, brought home gunny sacks of grass seed from the feed and seed store.  He would start up his 1954 Farmall Cub tractor, proceed to disc and harrow an acre of bare ground in our field, and then fill the seeder, distributing seed on the soil for his annual agronomy cover crop over winter growing experiment.  The little sprouts would wait to appear in the warming spring weather, an initial green haziness spread over the brown dirt, almost like damp green mold.  Within days they would form a plush and inviting velveteen green cushion, substantial enough for a little wiggle of blades in the breezes.  A few weeks later the cover would be a full fledged head of waving green hair, the wind blowing it wantonly, bending the stems to its will.  It was botanical pasture magic, renewable and marvelous,  only to be mowed and stubble turned over with the plow back into the soil as nutrition for the summer planting to come.  It was the sacrificial nature of cover crops to be briefly beautiful on top of the ground, but the foundational nurture once underground.

One spring the expected grassy carpet growth didn’t look quite the same after germination–the sprouts were little round leaves, not sharp edged blades.  Instead of identical uniform upright stems, the field was producing curly chaotic ovoid and spherical shapes and sizes. Clover didn’t abide by the same rules as grasses.  It had a mind of its own with a burgeoning and bumpy napped surface that didn’t bend with breezes, all its effort invested instead in producing blossoms.

A hint of pink one morning was so subtle it was almost hallucinatory.  Within a day it was unmistakeably reddening and real.  Within a week the green sea flowed with bobbing crimson heads. We had never seen such vibrancy spring from our soil before.  It exuded scented clover breath, the fragrance calling honey bees far and near.  True reverie.

The field of crimson dreams and sated honey bees lasted several weeks before my father headed back out on the Farmall to turn it under with the plow, burying the fading blossoms into the ground.  Their sacrifice bled red into the soil, their fragrant breath halted, their memory barely recognizable in the next summer crop germination.   Yet the crimson heads were there, feeding the growth of the next generation, deepening the green as it reached to the sun.

Such a sweet thing, alive a thousand summers hence in the soil.

What a beautiful feeling.

Crimson and clover, over and over.

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
Emily Dickinson