I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.
In high school, when first introduced to Emily Dickenson, I remember thinking how sad that the end-sum of an entire life, no matter how graceful or fulfilled, was a solitary, annoying fly.
But teenagers, like Emily, are prone to bouts of melancholia (and these profound depths of angst and sorrow are important to explore before the full brunt of life’s responsibilities really hit you)
As much as young adulthood is about finding direction, the 30’s are about finding purpose.
I know. I know.
Oprah and Eckhart having been trying to explain this idea for years, but I was always WORKING at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and never had the chance to watch those particular episodes.
This is why it took me to the age of 38 and a truckload of new arrivals at Beekman Farm to truly understand a purpose-driven life.
In the spring of this year, 42 honeybee hives were delivered to the farm, and within minutes of being settled at the foot of Slate Hill, their inhabitants could be seen exploring the clover blossoms scattered throughout the pasture.
Bees are single-minded. They venture out to find flowers as far away as 8 miles, gather their nectar and pollen and then beeline it home. The life span of the worker bee is short—from birth to death in about 6 weeks, so there’s not much time to gather ye rose buds. However, the brevity of their natural existence does not deter them from their responsibilities.
Honey is the distilled nectar of flowers. To make a pound of it, the 50,000 bees in a typical hive will travel over 55,000 miles and visit more than 2 million flowers (as many as a hundred flowers a day), and with each visit, they are spreading bits of pollen carried on their bodies, legs and wings, inadvertently contributing to the future.
Honeybees are attracted by the fragrance of the nectar that the blossoms emit. The nectar lies deep at the base of the petals. Each trip out for foraging, she (yes, the women do all the work) returns with nectar and by ingesting and regurgitating the nectar multiple times uses her digestive enzymes to break down the complex sugars into simple sugars. The sugars are then placed in the cells of the honeycomb where other worker bees (in the purest example of teamwork) fan their wings until the excess water has evaporated and honey is the result. The average honeybee will produce about 1/12 of a teaspoon of this amber elixir in its lifetime.
The best time to view the hives is at the hottest point of a sunny day. The bees are so focused on the tasks at hand that they cannot be bothered by my voyeurism.
It’s amazing to watch their determination and their efficiency, and it makes me think how wonderful it would be to live in a community in which everyone is working together with purpose. To have an endless supply of delicious food that you created yourself. And to be able to sit in something as all together beautiful as the base of a flower petal.
Wait a second.
I already have all of those things.
One clover, and a bee
The Revery alone will do
If bees are few
But Emily was wrong.
What a fitting final thought: a bee buzzing by on the way to her next blossom.
Purpose, promise and perpetuity.
Rest in Bees