A Keeper of Bees

If you talk to him,
he will not pretend to be
an ordinary man.
He won’t let on
he is one who isn’t afraid to hold
in his outstretched hands
the buzzing gold.

He won’t tell you he is the man who keeps farmers
warm in their livelihood,
or the man who keeps the grocery shelves
full, then adds, simply for good measure,
jars of his shining honey.
He won’t explain that he is the one
who sets his suffering neighbors
free from their pain
with gifts of jars that sting.

He won’t let on to be the lifegiver or a god.
He will pretend he is just an old man with sand-colored hair,
a blue truck heavy with breezy hives,
and a comb-spinner in his cellar.

~Sidney Hall Jr., from This Understated Land

Our niece Andrea of Z’s Happy Bees, gently vacuuming a swarm from one of our farm trees

…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

He calls the honeybees his girls although
he tells me they’re ungendered workers
who never produce offspring. Some hour drops,
the bees shut off. In the long, cool slant of sun,
spent flowers fold into cups. He asks me if I’ve ever
seen a Solitary Bee where it sleeps. I say I’ve not.
The nearest bud’s a long-throated peach hollyhock.
He cradles it in his palm, holds it up so I spy
the intimacy of the sleeping bee. Little life safe in a petal,
little girl, your few furious buzzings as you stir
stay with me all winter, remind me of my work undone.
~Heid E. Erdrich, from “Intimate Detail” from The Mother’s Tongue

I am awed and inspired by apiarists. Our niece Andrea has been bee-keeping for over a decade, keeping hives at home in nearby Skagit Valley as well as moving them during growing season to pollinate the blooms at Floret Flower Farm and other beautiful places.

A beekeeper must be a loving and patient person; the bees know who loves them, and who will always be there to care for them.

An old Celtic tradition necessitates sharing any news from the household with the farm’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 community – the bees are kept in the loop, so to speak, so they stay at home, not swarm and move on to a more hospitable place.

Each little life safe at home, each little life with work undone.

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.

Our Creator (the ultimate Beekeeper) comes personally to each of us to say:
“Here is what has happened. All will be well, dear one. We will navigate your little life together.”

photo from Andrea from Z’s Happy Bees
What does the bee do?
Bring home honey.
And what does Father do?
Bring home money.
And what does Mother do?
Lay out the money.
And what does baby do?
Eat up the honey.
~Christina Rossetti

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Like the Direction of Sunbeams

beeswarm5148

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

beeswarm51410

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

beeswarm5143

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

beeswarm5147

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

beeswarm51411

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

 

beeswarm5141

…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

beeswarm5142

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

whatsleft2

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)

Bee Swarm at BriarCroft

beeswarm5148

 

A swarm of honey bees appeared yesterday on our old walnut tree (the front yard tree house tree) and by dusk, a local bee keeper I had called came to box up the majority of them to take home to a new hive.  There are still a few left this morning (see below) which she plans to return to fetch this morning.

A bee swarm becomes 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.

 

A 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

 

beeswarm51410

 

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

 

beeswarm2

 

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

 

beeswarm5143

 

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

 

beeswarm5147

 

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

 

beeswarm51411

 

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

 

beeswarm5141

 

…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

 

beeswarm5142

 

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 this morning, waiting for the beekeeper’s return

whatsleft2

 

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