Monday, November 11, 2013

Remember the Bees

As often happens, something unusual catches my eye on Pinterest.  And then I start making associations to it from my life.  And then I end up here to tell you about it.  Well... grab your favorite beverage and settle in, my friend.

Photo from:
I remember visiting my dad's oldest sister, Wilma (named after their father, Wilford) in Afton, WY as a child.  Where and how she lived was so very different than where and how we lived and there were so many fascinating things to explore!  Until it finally rotted out and fell down, there was a big old barn where her milk cow lived.  I think once it probably held many other animals, but in my memory I only ever see the one cow.  She had at some point stored some household items from when Grandpa either sold the ranch, or maybe after he passed away, in the hay loft.  One of my cousins rescued a shoe box of his letters and pictures that no one else seemed to want for me.  I have it still and it is a treasure!

There was a little stream to one side of the house where, sadly, she'd lost a child to drowning.  I can't even imagine how hard it was to stay there and see it every single day.  With my childish oblivion to her pain its cold, clear, quick flowing water fascinated me and I spent many hours gazing into it hoping to see a fish or a crawdad or a frog.  I don't remember that ever happening, but I was sure that if I watched long enough I would see one.  And I recall that having me out there by the creek gave my mom loads of stress...

I remember Aunt Wilma's African Violets.  She had pink ones, and purple ones and white ones and if they grow in any other shades she probably had those, too.  I think their pots covered every table, counter top and window sill of her house!  And she had a pair of birds in her bedroom.  Some part of me wants to say they were Love Birds, but in all honesty I don't know.

Lately I've been thinking about her and trying to remember more.  I see a little bit of her in me... physically I'm reminded of it when I see the topmost knuckle of my 'bird' fingers starting to turn in like hers when age, hard work and arthritis had worked their gnarling torture.  I hope I can go forward with the same uncomplaining grace she had.

Yesterday I remembered that she kept a bee hive near where you would park just outside the fence around her yard. It seems like it might have started out as a wild hive but she provided them with boxes and good habitat (she kept a yard full of flowers and alfalfa fields surrounded her house) so they stayed.  I know she harvested the honey and used it in her baking.  It was that wonderful clover honey you get from those high mountain deserts out West.  If you've ever tasted it you know that it's different... And if that's what you grew up with, there is no other honey in the world that tastes quite as good!  That was where I learned not be afraid of the bees.  She said the bees could sense your fear and that's when they'd sting you.  In my mind, I can clearly see her standing, completely at peace and almost zen-like, in front of the hive with a cloud of bees buzzing around her.  I guess you could say, like the man described in that clipping, Aunt Wilma 'had a way with them.'

And so to her memory I dedicate the telling of this poem today.

Telling the Bees
by John Greenleaf Whittier

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.

There 's the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze;
And the June sun warm
Tangles his wings of fire in the trees,
Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.

I mind me how with a lover's care
From my Sunday coat
I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair,
And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.

Since we parted, a month had passed, --
To love, a year;
Down through the beeches I looked at last
On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.

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!

Then I said to myself, "My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day:
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away."

But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.

And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on: --
"Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!"

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You are so very talented! What memories this blog brought back.