My tongue is dancing with delight as it licks around the edges of a spoonful of sweet, freshly gathered honey that Zet harvested from her beehives yesterday. This may be the purest, most soul-satisfying sweetness I've ever encountered, made even tastier by knowing that it came from our own backyard, thanks to large amounts of sweat and effort from Zet, our neighbor, Ginny and the thousands of bees that have been swarming around our neighborhood.
Zet and I had long aspired to become beekeepers, because it seemed like a cool thing to do, in addition to the health benefits that eating locally produced honey is reputed to have for people like me, who suffer from seasonal allergies. And I really enjoyed the "Introduction to Beekeeping Workshop" that Zet, Ginny and I took two years ago from a very kind and knowledgeable Amish beekeeper.
But I started to get discouraged when we ended up spending more money than anticipated on buying our first two starter colonies, known as "nucs," (and then two more, when all the bees in the first ones accidently got overheated and died), in addition to the white body suits, veiled hats and various beekeeping paraphernalia required. And when I got stung the first two times we worked on the hives, despite wearing long sleeves, long pants, gloves and a veiled hat on a steamy hot day, I quickly said "No thank you!" to any further adventures as an apiarist.
Fortunately, Zet and Ginny were more determined. They did additional research, bought a few more tools, and continued the work, even though they both got stung several times in the process. Zet also got a nasty burn on her forefinger from handling the hot metal smoker, in addition to having had a pretty strong reaction to thestings, resulting in her arm swelling and throbbing painfully for days.
Then, last year, both hives wereattacked by robber bees, leaving the colony queen-less and decimated, but fortunately notsimultaneously. Both times they were able to feed the remaining hive with sugar water for several monthsto keep the colony strong. All of these trials and tribulations in a relatively small harvest of just four pints lastfall, and it really didn't taste all that good.
FRUITS OF THE LABOR
But their perseverance has definitely paid off. This time they gathered over 1½ gallons of honey, with the delightful prospect of harvesting that much or more again in just a few weeks. Best of all, I'm savoring the delicate, flowery aroma and taste of this luscious spoonful in my mouth right now, my enjoyment definitely magnified by the awareness of how much time, energy and commitment were involved in bringing this ambrosia to our kitchen table.
Come to think of it, it's not unlike the process of being a parent, a husband, professional musician, or a spiritual director. All have been deeply challenging at times, but have brought an amazing sweetness and richness to my life, made even sweeter by the patience, power and perseverance that they required over the long haul. For which I'm deeply grateful.
With gratitude and blessings,