Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Of Bees and Balm

By degrees over the last day and a half, my lumpish head has deflated. On Sunday morning, I was moon-faced and slit-eyed, with a look vaguely Mongolian. Just give me a yurt and a glass of mare's milk and I would have looked like a well-fed minion of Genghis Khan.

By Monday morning, I was more Eskimoid, as my face was less round and a trifle longer and narrower, but still with epicanthic eye folds. The red bags underneath my eyes persisted, however, so I looked more like an Eskimo who’d been in a bar fight, than one calmly sitting home chewing on a seal skin.

By Monday noon my lips had shed the outer layer of skin that had simply been overextended like a burst balloon. Through the miracle of cell division, a fresh layer was already taking its place and by mid-afternoon I wore lipstick for the first time since Friday night. My hands had deflated sufficiently to make typing less than agonizing, but the little red polka dots representing the actual sites of stinger insertion persisted, all over my face, hands and arms.

This morning, I’m happy to report, I peered into the mirror with trepidation but found to my delight that it was just plain old me, in there. Except for a lingering swelling and soreness in my throat, I assume marking the descent of toxins through the lymphatic system toward the subclavian duct, and red puffs under my eyes that give me the louche look of a night prowler of the demimonde, I seem to be remarkably restored.

Meanwhile, the bees have settled right into their new home. What usually happens with a swarm is that they take all afternoon to wander into their new abode, twiddling their antennae and waggling their bottoms the while, to tell one another how inconvenient the whole process is. Not so with this swarm. David dumped them into the hive and clapped the lid on, minutes ahead of the snow. The outriders who still clung to the box or fell outside the hive didn’t hesitate: they scurried straight into the hive entrance, obviously glad to see a place that offered safety from the storm.

Yesterday, I went down to the hive without any protective gear on, to pour more sugar water in the top feeder. They were, as I expected, completely pacific. We will feed the bees for a few days, until they get their strength back and can get established. When I went to lift the lid, the buzz of an active colony was loud and the entire hive was vibrating with it. The top feeder looked like a mosh pit at a grunge band concert. Bees were wall to wall, some stacked in heaps or walking over one another, to get to the food. Clearly, everyone was having a good time sucking up refreshments. I topped off the sugar water and slid the lid closed, very pleased to see our new girls thriving.

As I stood watching the hive, two bees flew in and began their waggle dance on the landing board, the bee equivalent of a front porch. They were communicating the presence of food in the vicinity, I assume, which means that soon we won’t need to feed them. They’ll be collecting their own food from the manzanita blossoms that are just beginning to flower, and building honey comb to store it in and to raise brood in.

There is no hesitation with these little gals. No sitting around and whining about the good old days in the old colony or about the travails they’ve just suffered. They are all about the present and the future -- something we all could learn from, in these shaky days when we apparently are witnessing the collapse of Western civilization.

It’s certainly a message I intend to take to heart personally. I won’t soon forget that I’ve just spent the last few days looking like an extra for a horror flick. But spring is here and the sap is rising, and I’m ready for a new – hopefully less painful – adventure.

Before I move on, though, I want to thank you all for your heartfelt condolences about my physical state, these last few days. Truly there is no more efficacious balm than that of human kindness!

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