The Sunday buzz


Every visit to the hive is a bit like opening a gift that I’m a little wary of. Not because I’m afraid of the bees, but because I’m afraid for them. After last year’s disappointments, we’re just never sure what we’re going to see.

Each time, we approach the hive with quiet excitement tinged with a dab of worry: what if they’ve swarmed? What if we see no eggs? What if they’re all just… gone?

We smoke the entrance, happy to see commuters coming and going. The incoming foragers weighed down with bright orange luggage is a good sign.

And then we lift the hive lid optimistically…

And there they are, nearly oblivious to us, making a great buzz, tending their community, raising their young, filling their cupboards with precious orange and yellow pollen, and putting up the white-capped honey for winter.

Because today is August, full, hot and droopy with summer, but they know what the ragweed bloom tells them, what the sun’s angle tells them, what the night-time crickets tell them.

Still right now in this heat, sweat dripping off our brows, gloves, camera and all sticky with propolis, the thick buzzing all around us, summer is not going anywhere, not for the moment.


Hours later, I’m writing this. A Sunday night and the dark is coming on. A wise friend recently said that August is the Sunday night of summer. It’s okay. There’s still a little bit of time to stash away some honey. And the earlier dusk? Well, then, we’ll just have to go out and watch the stars until we get sleepy.


Honey and brood

Pollen sacs filled

Winter stores

Getting them on record

Hidden spring

Hidden spring

The internet’s serving up photos of crocuses and daffodils. I hear tell of apple and pear blossoms, kids and lambs, and Easter egg hunts.

Around here, spring seems reluctant. There’s tell-tale mud, to be sure. But there’s still snow. And nothing is blooming.

When I look up into the trees, they look as quiet and empty as the winter that’s just passed.

But just because we can’t see something happening, doesn’t mean it isn’t.


There’s a thaw beneath the fallen snow
And the geese don’t know which way to go
There’s a warm wind blowin’ round the bend
And the days are growin’ long again

And I will go down by the river
And wash the cold away
And gaze across the water all day

There’s a bird rehearsing on a wire
And a soft green underneath the briar
There’s a hazy ring around the moon
And the rains of spring are comin’ soon

–Cheryl Wheeler, from “Spring“, 1997

Tick tock

Tick tock

It was long overdue, but none of us were ready for it earlier. So, into the basement and closets it all went: the treasures, the flotsam and jetsam of H’s childhood. Until this week, when M pulled all the boxes into the living room and began to sort.

Decks of cards (some still wrapped in cellophane). Heaps of pens and markers and erasers shaped like animals and flowers and who knows what. Baby toys. Art kits. Magic sets. Scraps of fabric. Pipe cleaners. Rubber stamps. Popsicle sticks. Half-used bottles of bubble solution. Half-filled journals and notebooks. Plastic figurines. Key chains. Shells, sticks, stones, feathers, drift wood. Impossibly tiny doll shoes. Stuffed animals. Unidentifiable bits of plastic. Books, and books, and books.

I expected it to feel emotional (and I’m grateful that M & H did the bulk of the sorting and decision-making without me)—putting behind us one phase of our life in order to prepare for the next—but I didn’t expect the interleaved sensation, seeing the brocade of her childhood woven with threads of our own, memories of her growing up braided with those of our life before and since her arrival, longings for people who gave her things long ago and are no longer here to give her things.

There was plenty of, let’s face it, junk in that pile. Objects that stirred no memories at all.

But when I look at the boxes piled up for donation, I see all at once our expectations, her happy childhood, her growing up and away (in the best, most natural way possible), my own childhood, my approaching half century, my mother, my grandparents, their childhoods and adulthoods, the tiny hands of the next child to play with these toys, their half-closed eyes when they listen to the clock singing its sleepy song.

I’ll say it again: I’m the luckiest girl in the world. Oh, but how life can deliver such beautiful, sad, sweet, sepia-toned stings.

Everything must go

Here and elsewhere

Here and elsewhere

A Sunday in late winter.

Just at that point in the season where, if you put a certain album on the stereo, settle yourself into the chair by the window, tilt your face up to the strengthening sunlight, close your eyes and ignore the wind outside and the eight-foot pile of snow that’s accumulated on the porch and the rug that’s covered with splinters from the firewood… for a few minutes anyway, it doesn’t matter where your body is, because you’re swaying gently to a rhythm that’s never heard of winter, that doesn’t know from ice and snow, that delivers you the tonic of a warm sea breeze rustling through palm fronds, a strumming that assures you that summer’s still there, out over the ocean, coming this way on steadily beating wings.

Just wait.

Denial is an ocean

One of hundreds

I’ve heard the reports. Negative abysmal temperatures again tonight. Let’s just pretend, shall we?

Let’s say we’re in that cottage by the ocean. You know the place. We’ve just unloaded the car and are hurriedly running around to see what’s changed since last year, claiming bedrooms, putting the sheets we’d packed only hours ago onto welcoming beds, pulling back the curtains.

Then running out the door (let that screen door slam) and down the sandy path to the dune above the beach. It’s late and getting dark, but we can still see enough to see how steep the slope is. Kick off those shoes. They’re safe. Unleash the dog. He knows the way. Hit the sand with our bare feet and it feels cold, but not enough to stop us.

Let gravity pull us down that dune. Let the ocean pull us across the high tide line of wrack, driftwood, charred wood from someone else’s beach fire.

Look! The sun’s just setting and the gulls are quieting. Is that a seal or a wave? Too dark to tell.

The dog’s already ankle-deep in foam. The ocean’s laughing. The waves are kicking up a fuss, reaching and receding, frizzling and falling over itself in excitement that we’re finally here.

Everyone else is leaving; they must have dinner plans. But we? We have potato chips and hot chocolate in the cottage, and we’ll get to that by-and-by. We have all the time in the world.

The bell behind our lives

Buoy bell

The buoy bell was a housewarming gift from M’s family when we bought this little chunk of Vermont all those years ago.

Back then, if you remember, the house was up near the road. Far down the slope of a yard stood some ancient apple trees. M took an old hank of rope, threaded it through the top of the bell, looped it over the branch of one tree, knotted the rope. And there she still hangs.

Over the years, the tree has grown older and rangy, the house has moved down the slope, the goat fence has arrived (followed by the goats). And there she still hangs. Silent witness until the wind whispers up and shakes everything in its path.

The other day there were rumors of snow. We’d been fooled a few days earlier when the blizzard that silenced Boston decided to hug the coast. School was cancelled in anticipation of two feet of snow and nothing happened. The day was cloudy and quiet.

Then, in that next wave, the wind came up in long steady strokes and set the bell to ringing and ringing, announcing the coming storm. I could see the wind rustling the high thin branches of the trees, but it was the bell that told me that something worth noting was happening.

You’d think we’d be driven mad by the sound of that bell out there, but somehow it’s faded into the background and we have to actively listen to hear it. The way you can stop hearing the train that runs behind your house after awhile. The way you can miss the quarter-hour tolling of the grandfather clock you grew up with. The way, when we first moved here, our land smelled like a pine forest where we’d pitch a tent, and every day seemed like vacation, and now it just smells like home.

The way the thing you treasure most seems lost to you, but is all along sitting in the palm of your hand, warm and waiting to be noticed.