An email that morning – informing me that my application for a university scholarship was unsuccessful – had set the tone for the day, namely, a poor one. Customers seemed grumpier than normal. The coffee pots seemed to always need refilling. The future, and all its ensuing financial obligations, even more overwhelming.
I knew what I needed to do. A recently opened Starbucks a mere five-minute walk from my house would be the perfect setting for a little bad-day recovery, a chance to catch up on writing in anonymous bliss with an Iced-Mocha-Frappe-Make-Me-Feel-a-Latte-Better-Cino by my side. My mother had other ideas.
As I changed out of the all-black affair of my uniform, she called upstairs. “Feel like clearing your brain and coming to see a beehive with me?”
Not exactly, Mom. In fact, the last thing I felt like doing was putting on protective long pants and boots – with the outside temperature pushing the mid-90s – and trudging through an overgrown field, all to what? Put myself at risk of being stung a thousand times over?
But I did, of course.
My mother, you see, is currently knee-deep in a book about bees. She’s drawing on several of their characteristics – the waggle dance, in particular – to talk about the topic of unity and how women relate to each other. I, however, am up to my waist in the mire that is financial aid, having to fill out scary-sounding things like Master Promissory Notes and Entrance Counseling. Committing oneself to repaying a large sum of money is not for the faint of heart, I’m learning.
And so when a friend of my mother’s called this afternoon, saying that her husband, who has recently taken up beekeeping, would be visiting his new hive, Mom jumped at the chance to tag along – “This is an adventure!” she said excitedly on our way there. We pull up a gravel drive, three miles from our house, and deep, green cornfields grow on either side. I get out of the car and stare down the lane, only a telephone line to muss up the ruralness of it all. Three miles yet a world apart from the development of suburbia that surrounds the farm. I’m feeling better already.
As he pulls a long-sleeved t-shirt over his head and dons a hat and veil, Greg talks of how he built the hive, purchasing a box of 5,000 bees to get his colony going. When it came to placing them in the hive, he said it felt like pouring thick molasses. “You literally just dump them in, but they’d all clung together. They get scared in an unsure environment.”
“Billy told me there’s not a beekeeper who hasn’t seen that sight at least once. He said not to let it keep me up at night.” With each new wooden frame he lowers into the top box, Greg’s actions speak of tenderness and his emotional investment in this undertaking.
And understandably so. It was remarkable to see, really. I was given a chance to wear the veil and sneak up close. On the underside of the hive’s lid, little pieces of honeycomb had begun to form, their six-sided cells visible even among the swarms of bees moving as one. I can do nothing but stare, marvelling as always at the sight of something that has come from nothing. It’s the same beauty found in icicles, in pearls, in stalactites and stalagmites. It’s the aggregate of the process, the way each small step builds on the last.
I watch with interest, thinking that just like those bees, I’ll be taken care of, too.