I find it kind of interesting that I have had several conversations about bees in the past few days. I’m no bee expert, and not really more interested in bees than the average gardener, but for some reason they keep coming up. I have heard about studies on native bees, I took a photo of bees on my bee balm because I thought it interesting that they preferred the pink over the red varieties, and last night I spent an extra few moments in the garden observing the numerous bumblebees on the blooming vitex. So I feel I would be remiss to ignore the fact that today is St John’s Eve, because according to today’s edition of The Writer’s Almanac:
St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers. It’s a time when the hives are full of honey. The full moon that occurs this month was called the Mead Moon, because honey was fermented to make mead. That’s where the word “honeymoon” comes from, because it’s also a time for lovers. An old Swedish proverb says, “Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking.” Midsummer dew was said to have special healing powers. In Mexico, people decorate wells and fountains with flowers, candles, and paper garlands. They go out at midnight and bathe in the lakes and streams. Midsummer Eve is also known as Herb Evening. Legend says that this is the best night for gathering magical herbs. Supposedly, a special plant flowers only on this night, and the person who picks it can understand the language of the trees. Flowers were placed under a pillow with the hope of important dreams about future lovers.
Yes, I could have posted Shakespeare. But instead, let’s honor the bee today.
Bees and Morning Glories
Morning glories, pale as a mist drying,
fade from the heat of the day, but already
hunchback bees in pirate pants and with peg-leg
hooks have found and are boarding them.
This could do for the sack of the imaginary
fleet. The raiders loot the galleons even as they
one by one vanish and leave still real
only what has been snatched out of the spell.
I’ve never seen bees more purposeful except
when the hive is threatened. They know
the good of it must be grabbed and hauled
before the whole feast wisps off.
They swarm in light and, fast, dive in,
then drone out, slow, their pantaloons heavy
with gold and sunlight. The line of them,
like thin smoke, wafts over the hedge.
And back again to find the fleet gone.
Well, they got this day’s good of it. Off
they cruise to what stays open longer.
Nothing green gives honey. And by now
you’d have to look twice to see more than green
where all those white sails trembled
when the world was misty and open
and the prize was there to be taken.
— John Ciardi