Love’s Purgatory is a Thistle Field
Bees, Mead, and Splits (Part 2.5 of 4, a lesser tale snuck into a series on losing love and regaining life)
Bees, Mead, and Splits
“do you make mead very often?”
“the last time I made it was for my wedding…so, it’s been awhile”
Dressed in an old long sleeved tee shirt, worn blue carharts and a white brimmed woven hat the tall sun kissed farmer with slight wrinkles and young radiating eyes looked up at kneeling down on one knee over the silver pot of honey comb freshly harvested. Scorching mid day sun shone down on them. Sweat dripped down into the creases of shirt sleeves under arms and from wetted hair tucked underneath a variety of brimmed hats. We ate small chunks of warm oozing comb cut and shared with us from the generous kneeling farmer. My bite made me cough from the intense sweetness and he joked that “I must get choked up about bees”.
Choked up by sweetness like lovers at their nuptial, the warm honey coated my tongue. I was stunned by the sweet goo sliding warmly down my throat as it covered any bitter taste in my mouth. As we stood there letting the honey fill our stomachs, I thought about Mark and his wife drinking mead under dumpster dived flowers on their wedding day. Had Mark known that the actual term “honeymoon” comes from the ancient tradition of giving bridal couples a moons worth of honey-wine to ensure a fruitful union. Ambrosia? Did he know all along that the Greeks thought it to be the drink of the gods? Did he know that mead has been believed to prolong life, bring good health, strength, virility, creative power, wit, and poetry? Thinking about Mark’s tender love of his wife and family, I could see that the mead he brewed had been strong. I can still see him walking with his young son holding his hand as they moved through the rows of plants in the field and feel the warmth of his smile wrinkles and twinkling eyes as he talked about his one true partner.
Moments before devouring the oozing gooey honey, we all sat patiently in tall grass missed by the mower under young fruit trees; trees that had had early buds and a hard late freeze. Young, we sat expectantly to see what was in the large box farmer Mark had carried with him to the orchard. We watched as he slowly and methodically took out protective bee clothing; large gloves and a mask with a screen like the type you have to keep out mosquitoes on a summers day. The summers’ day beat down on us and Mark chose only to put the mask on as he handed more gear to his brave young assistant who chatted away about her bees. He lit, with a match, the smoker that breathed on the matches’ flame with an accordion like pump that took air in and pushed air out with a quiet whoosh.
“it takes as much time to light the smoker as to work with the bees”, he chuckled.
Standing over the first hive, Mark started to prepare the first frame of the hive in order to open it. With an instrument looking no more like a metal pipe with a curved end, he ran it between the first frame and the edge of the box, unsticking the honey created by the busy hive within. As we watched, the energy of the hive began to change.
Bees communicate through pheromones and when under attack they release one that alerts the hive. They do not like smoke. They sit inside believing their house is on fire and their pheromones masks their communication; it confuses them. This confusion allows the bee keeper to do work inside the hive; work that sometimes allows the very existence of the bees themselves. My own house was on fire and He was confused. I remember that I could feel him emotionally for months. I felt him at an emotional level and, as fate would have it, I knew intuitively exactly where and what he was doing all along. I picked up on Her pheromones and his desire. It drove me crazy. After all, i’m not a bee and why would I feel such things about my faithful partner? We both knew our home was in danger. I could feel his pain, but, as if in a smoke filled room, I didn’t understand where the attack was coming from. She came in easily masking me and filling his nose. His outstretched hand looked for mine, but found Hers through the smoke.
“this hive is aggressive, but productive”, Mark told us as we audibly heard the pitch of the hive become notably higher.
The bees fervently began to shift their focus from feeding the brood, their children within the comb, and prepared for kamikaze attack if need be. Luckily, the bees did not need to trade their lives. Their work was not complete and their brood still were gestating within each hole of the comb sucking greedily on the sticky goo. They still had room to grow and they were not afraid to tell us.
We moved on.
Standing near by, resting lazily from the summer’s heat, we look at at Mark and his red haired young bee assistant. Following the same technique, Mark lifted up the first frame to discover ready honey. The brood was gone. They had their fill and it was ready for us to clean giving the hive more and more room to grow their colony. Over nothing more than a metal pot, Mark cut off the large chucks of comb and honey. The bees, unaware that we were doing them a service taking our honey tax, started to fly out in all directions. Calm, Mark continued as his young assistant struggled with bees flying in and out of her fiery locks. She had her bee keeper initiation getting stung 6 times on her head, face, and neck. The bees continued their fight successfully causing all but Mark and another farm intern to flee. Somehow the other intern stayed calm in the tall grass having already had her bee initiation years ago with Mark as he, like a father, mentored her as a child over her first hive.
“we really do not harvest the honey for profit. It’s just to make sure they have room to grow”, Mark tells us as we walked away successfully holding a small pot of comb; honey treasure. Mark continued teaching us that “if we do not harvest the honey, they have no where to grow and will die”. Space to grow; the box gives only so much room.
Before I left my home, I felt suffocated and agitated. I stayed, however, for years and saw things develop in ways that would not have if I had left during the first sign of danger of feeling trapped, or limited. At one point, I traded leaving to pursue a new dream in order to build a dream with Him instead. I was loved and I loved deeply during these years. I had never known love before I knew Him I believe, not in the way experienced in that time. Still, I could not shake this feeling that I needed to leave. Mystics would challenge this and challenge me that what was missing was my own internal feeling that there was a deficiency when truly everything was complete as always. There are days i’m haunted by this. Did I leave when I had everything I wanted? There are times as of late that I worry that I left before my comb was complete. I left the expansive skies of the southwest, the canyons, the forests, the wind and He stayed finding Her waiting near by. She sees room to grow there and with Him. I, too, see this. Still, could it not be that I needed room to grow?
“have you had any hive collapse” asks one eager farm visitor.
“sure, we’ve lost half of our hives. They just stopped coming with no explanation”.
Did the hive change? Did they find somewhere better? Did they just get tired? While probably more likely cell phones and pesticides, one can wonder what happens in the mind of the lowly single bee en-route. Do they ask themselves “where am I?”, or do they say “what’s the point of it all?” Do they just find a whole new life? Do they decide they want to become something else completely instead and leave the bee business for good?
“what about colony splits?”
“sure, sometimes a queen will divide the colony and take half with her. They leave forever under irrevocable circumstances”.
Colonies naturally split sometimes. The hive becomes so full that worker bees cannot sense their queen; they do no receive her pheromones that direct them in their work. Still, globally bees are experiencing hive collapse at a scale not seen before. There are theories. Mark points to neonics and believes so strongly that they are the reasons for the collapse that he will not give his poor, itchy dogs flea medicine as neonics are part of the flea bath cocktail. Neonics; neonicotinods are a class of pesticide thrown onto our corn and soybeans. Bee loving scientists have found that the pesticide not only ensures genetically modified Monsanto alien corn to thrive but also blocks olfactory learning and memory of bees. Literally, the bees forget. They lose their way. The inability to communicate through pheromones represents a breakdown of bee society. My own love stopped seeking me out. Through our fights and the distance between us, he forgot me. Time has passed now and I no longer sense him and He has a new queen. Was this a natural split? Was this hive collapse necessary?
As we walked on the sweat dribbled down our necks under our diversity of farm hats. Our stiff, dirt clad pants shuffled as we walked slow and methodically through the trees and field.
“you know all the bees are female, right? That’s why they get so much done” she chuckled to me.
“yeah?” I reply “I suppose that doesn’t sound too bad at all really.” We chuckle a bit while my heart lifts slightly like a sad smile.
Bees are, in fact, mostly females barring the few drones that they allow into the hive to mate with the queen. The hive will kick the drones out after they have done their job as the drones normally just sit lazily around drinking mead all day and waiting till they can mate with the queen again. The bees are a society of identical sisters. Naturally, hives split to ensure that the society can grow. What about these unnatural spits?
I called Her moments after I discovered over a strangers Instagram and Facebook that the love of my life had started a new relationship with someone else while I was miles away missing him. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. Instead, I experienced one of the most perverse conversations of my life:
“Hi, I’m Me. I’m His partner. I’ve called to ask you some questions.”
“Oh…hi. Hmm, okay, go ahead”
“What is your relationship to my partner”
“Well, we’ve been climbing for years….i’m a climber and don’t have a good sense for time…i’ve lived in the area for the past 14 years and have put up hard climbs…who are you? Are you a rock climber?”
“Yes, I climb. Look…I apologize, but I don’t really care that you rock climb. How long have you been screwing my partner?”
“Oh, I appreciate your directness. I’m direct, too. We started climbing and then going to dinner and it just happened”
“Were you not aware that he was in a life partnership with me and was supposedly moving to be with me?”
“Well, I did see boxes and thought that was weird…he would go out East and I really didn’t understand why anyone would what to go out east.”
“Yeah, he was moving to be with me”
“He told me that he had a lease with you, because you cannot take care of yourself financially….Look…thanks for calling, but I don’t ever want to hear from you again. With all due respect, I will spend time with whomever I choose. What Him and I do is none of your business”.
Sisters. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and was told that my home was not my own. I followed up our conversation to clarify some things and to warn her to not get hurt by Him. Her eloquent response:
“Get a clue. F*ck off”.
Sisters. Hive collapse. What sort of hive will choose a drone over a sister? Should I mourn His loss, really, or is the loss between sisters deeper?
Walking on, I glance up at Mark carrying the honey and think about him carrying his first flowers he brought to his wife dumpster dived with affection. I think about him as he tenderly took months to make his honey wine for his love. I think about them holding each other’s hands under the sunny sky as loose bees flew around their heads as they exchanged their vows and toasted with mead made with love and patience. They had found space to grow for over 20 years.
I am in the need of a strong elixir giving me the strength of gods. Tired, numb; I suckle my small piece of honey comb and continue on.
We continue the day’s labor and the bees theirs. With love and patience I pull the weeds in a field so far from home. I ask myself where am I. I am so far from home. The life I once had with Him is gone and a new queen has taken over the colony. I ask myself at times what the point is as I flutter about. Actions were taken; some made flying through smoke, some made through pheromones, and still others from a place deep within that nags persistently. Here, now, I flutter outside of my hive looking for home. Perhaps, bees also do not get a choice, but to move on. Whether natural or unnatural, sometimes we are forced to find a new place to grow.