still space

I suppose it’s time for me to introduce my girls. I have three hives of bees that I tend – all brimming with thousands of female worker bees and one queen. I’ll let you meet them in the order I typically work them. Freeda-b is the rockstar queen. My oldest queen by far, but you’d never guess it. She can easily outlay my other two more spry queens – filling each frame flawlessly with gorgeous brood. And her girls consistently make more honey than any hive I’ve ever kept. I’ve not ventured into the tricky art of raising queens, but Freeda-b is just the type who would lead me there. Her enthusiasm is contagious.

Next in line is Ruth Wilson (named after my great grandmother – not the English actress). Steadfast and sweet. I love her hive. Her bees remind me of the kid who really has to work at something to be good, you know the type – as opposed to the one equipped with all the natural talent and good looks to boot. Ruth Wilson also runs a “no attitude” ship. Her girls are a mild tempered and easy to work with – a treat really.

Which is pretty much the exact opposite of Valerie’s hive. I consider her my problem child. She is named in honor of Miracle Max’s wife. When I installed her into the hive as a young queen, I found my self asking “think it’ll work?” Which, to be fair, is a question I frequently ask myself in the bee yard, but this time the answer was clearly “it’d take a miracle.” Let’s just say the conditions were less than ideal, and there was a wee bit of mayhem going on. But she rallied and she seems committed to live up to her hard-knocks upbringing – her girls are SASSY. This was my first summer with her, but her crew has all the makings to be top-notch honey makers. I’m expecting great things from them next season, even if I have to put up with a little cheek.

But there is something else you should know about my hives. Bees make me nervous. They always have. Now, I’ve never been the flailing, squealing, swatting type around bees. I really want to like them. And I do. But they still make me jumpy. Every time I suit up to go out to the bee yard, my pulse increases and my body temp rises ever so slightly. Sometimes I even get the stomach flutters. That disconnect between instinct and rational thought is a fascinating one, isn’t it? But here’s the kicker. As soon as I am immersed with the girls – even the surly ones – my nerves settle and everything magically drops away. And I mean everything. For once, I don’t think about the work project sitting on my desk, or the potatoes that need to be dug before the ground freezes, or the phone call I should have made. I don’t replay any past conversations in my head, or dwell on what the future may or may not hold for me. Time stops and that’s all there is. Just bees. Not much else has this effect on me. I meditate daily, I practice yoga, I consciously relax. But for all my attempts at enlightenment, my mind still manages to have it’s fair share of private fracases.

I’m sure my motivation to set up a single hive five years ago had a lot to do with honey. But really I have come to see that luscious liquid gold as an added perk to a pursuit that finally gives me that sought after still space. My girls also manage to keep me endlessly curious  – if even slightly nervous. I love those sort of unexpected surprises that life dishes out.

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