Wednesday, July 7, 2010

So Why Bees?

The question I get asked most often about my new hobby is "Why?" Sometimes, they ask it as a two part question: "Are you crazy? Why would you ever get bees?" Then there's the approach that implies the question and suggests an answer: "Well, that's one good way to get out of hosting family parties!"

Well, we're still hosting plenty of family parties and the hives have become part of the attraction, creating a serene view from the back patio into the meadow. So that's not the answer.

When my daughter Kara heard the question posed she responded quickly and confidently "I know why!!" I couldn't wait to hear the answer.

"You watch out for my glasses and I'll watch out for your bees."

I knew immediately what she was referring to and smiled to think of it. Years ago I was out on the tractor mowing the yard. I had a new pair of prescription glasses in my shirt pocket. At some point the glasses bounced out and were somewhere in the 5.25 acres of yard. I figured I'd look out for the glasses as I continued to mow.

As I mowed and closely examined the yard I became very much aware of all the bees on the wildflowers that I was mowing down. I slowed the tractor and tried to let the bees get out of the way. And then I made the deal: "You watch out for my glasses and I'll watch out for your bees."

For the rest of the 4 hour job I focused on not mowing down any bees. It made the job longer but much more interesting. At the end of the job, I hit a bump that knocked something loose. I stopped the tractor and there on the ground were my glasses. The frames were a bit twisted but I straightened them and wore them for years. And to this day I brake for bees.

Over our 10 years here in the Meadowlands we have slowly allowed more and more yard to revert back to meadow. We've spread wildflower seed to help things along. And over those years, we've become more in tune with the life in the meadow: the bluebirds and tree swallows, goldfinch and robins, the red winged blackbirds and black capped chickadees; the hawks and the meadow mice, rabbits and woodchucks and the occasional visitors like fox and pheasant. I'd like to see more of them.

So why any of that?

It seems it comes down to an awareness of loss; an awareness of my own mortality and a need in me to embrace that mortality and to engage life; to rediscover the wonder I knew as a child.

It's funny. When I plant a tree now I wonder who will be enjoying its shade. It's not morbid -- it's simply true. I don't dwell on it nor does it discourage me from planting trees. On the contrary, I smile to think of it and probably plant more trees because of it.

I'm putting the brakes on this explanation. I'd end up writing a book. Suffice it to say that life has tenderized me -- worn me down and built me up again into something different. The new me likes feeling at one with his surroundings. Being a beekeeper makes sense to that new more tender me.

A tender -- there's a gentleness to it that I like. I am not so much a beekeeper as a bee tender. And come to think of it, that isn't a bad way to live. Bee tender.

Feel the hug.


  1. "For this is love and nothing else is love,
    The which it is reserved for God above
    To sanctify to what far ends He will,
    But which it only needs that we fulfill."

  2. Thank you for your quiet reflections. I am enjoying your blog-this is my first bee year also. Nothing awakens our sense of self more than communion with God or nature--often they are entwined.

  3. Thanks for the feedback. Best wishes for success in your beekeeping adventure. We have a lot to learn!