Hives and Swarms

Here is the place; right over the hill    
Runs the path I took; 
You can see the gap in the old wall still,    
And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook. 

There is the house, with the gate red-barred,    
And the poplars tall; 
And the barn’s brown length, and the cattle-yard,    
And the white horns tossing above the wall. 

There are the beehives ranged in the sun;    
And down by the brink 
Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o’errun,    
Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink. 

A year has gone, as the tortoise goes,    
Heavy and slow; 
And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows,    
And the same brook sings of a year ago. 

I can see it all now,—the slantwise rain    
Of light through the leaves, 
The sundown’s blaze on her window-pane,    
The bloom of her roses under the eaves. 

Just the same as a month before,—    
The house and the trees, 
The barn’s brown gable, the vine by the door,—    
Nothing changed but the hives of bees. 

Before them, under the garden wall,    
Forward and back, 
Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,    
Draping each hive with a shred of black. 

Trembling, I listened: the summer sun    
Had the chill of snow; 
For I knew she was telling the bees of one    
Gone on the journey we all must go! 
~John Greenleaf Whittier from “Telling the Bees”

An old Celtic tradition necessitates sharing any news from the rural household with the farmer’s bee hives, whether cheery like a new birth or a wedding celebration or sad like a family death.  This ensures the hives’ well-being and continued connection to home and farm – the bees are kept in the loop, so to speak, so they stay at home, not swarming to move on to a more hospitable and presumably communicative place.

Good news seems always easy to share; we tend to keep bad news to ourselves so this tradition helps remind us that what affects one of us, affects us all. These days, with instant news at our fingertips at any moment, bad news is constantly bombarding us. Like the bees in the hives of the field, we want to flee from it and find a more hospitable home.

I do hope the Beekeeper comes and personally reassures us:
“Here is what has happened.
All will be okay.
We will navigate this life together.
Please stay with me.”

O gentle bees, I have come to say
That grandfather fell to sleep to-day.
And we know by the smile on grandfather’s face.
He has found his dear one’s biding place.
So, bees, sing soft, and, bees, sing low.
As over the honey-fields you sweep,—
To the trees a-bloom and the flowers a-blow
Sing of grandfather fast asleep;
And ever beneath these orchard trees
Find cheer and shelter, gentle bees.
~Eugene Field from “Telling the Bees”

8 thoughts on “Hives and Swarms

  1. Awe…I like that tradition. Talking to the bees so they want to stay. I want to always recognize my Beekeeper”s voice, so I don’t wander away. Thanks Emily for your beautiful message today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awe…I like that tradition. Talking to the bees so they want to stay. I want to always recognize my Beekeeper”s voice, so I don’t wander away. Thanks Emily for your beautiful message today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My father has settled in at Brethren Village personal care. A week ago Tuesday, I fell and fractured my left shoulder.. This past Tuesday, I signed the lease and got the keys for a one bedroom apartment in Lititz in order to be closer to my dad and my niece and her daughter and families. Wednesday and Thursday family and friends helped me move some of the fragile things, food in freezer, and clothing, etc. Thursday the movers came to transport the furniture and many, many boxes,
    I told the movers they would need a shoe horn to get it all in the new apartment. Only by the grace of God and family and friends am I more or less settled in and beginning a new normal. It feels good.
    Yes, we needs others through the good and the bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. oh Linda, so much at once! I do hope you will be settled as well as soon as you are in your apartment. Your shoulder will be a limiting factor for awhile but you will heal and clearly are healing through all the help and His Grace. Now you’ve told the bees too!


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