Photo credit: Keatley Garvey

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, approximately 40 honeybee hives are delivered to the farm. Within minutes of being settled at the foot of Slate Hill, their inhabitants can 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.


The bee population at Beekman 1802 peaks in mid-July when a queen can lay thousands of eggs a day–which is how a colony of a few hundred can swell to over 10,000 in a couple of weeks.


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

And Revery.

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

by Dr. Brent

Reader Comments

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Diane A. Sherrouse

Your words brilliantly convey multiple messages with uncommon wit! This week, June 18-24, 2018, is National Pollinator Week. I hope you might find a minute to see my, where my favorite four-year-old talks about pollination. She began watching bees with me at six months of age, and now loves to wade through a field of clover to smell the fragrance. Her endless curiosity about all natural processes began with a buzzing bee.

Your creativity and sharing are gifts for all. Thank you!


I love Emily d, so I looked all through the messages, to see what you wrote about her, yes. that was sad, but she is not, as a rule. ergo: “I NEVER SAW A MOOR, I NEVER SAW THE SEA, YET, KNOW I HOW THE HEATHER LOOKS AND WHAT A WAVE MUST BE. I NEVER SPOKE WITH GOD, NOR VISITED IN HEAVEN, YET CERTAIN AM I OF THE SPOT, AS IF THE CHART WERE GIVEN.” ISN’T THAT EXQUISITE??? LOVE BEEKMANS, THE VERY BEST. JOY WOOD

sarah auzina

A beautiful tribute to the worker bees. Dickinson has always been my favorite poet, ever since I was a melancholy child. 🙂

Rose Strong

Teamwork, marketing prowess, poetry and the tiny necessities for our life on earth to carry on. Your messages are so spot on Brent! Thank you for this wonderful morning lesson in biology, art and community whilst trying to make a living in an honest, caring manner.


Love the read – it was well done- dr brent- emily very sweet article- good bee 🐝 life is beautiful thank you josh and Brent – 🌻🌼🌼🌸


Enjoying the poetic Emily- thank you neighbors so kind ! Bees 🐝 prosperity
All well zoe ☕️🐝🌻🌻

Suzette Green

I think that I
Shall never see
A poem as thrilling
As a Bee.

Lorraine Gauvin

Emily Dickinson is my favorite. When I saw your email, I immediately knew the poem you would reference! ❤️ And I love honey, too.

Beth Robinson

Brent: No matter the subject matter, you write so beautifully. Maybe one day you will gather all your lovely words and put them in a book for us.

The “bee” article was really informative; we take these amazing creatures so for granted. Thanks for reminding us to look around and be in awe.


Lovely bee blog. Makes me feel a bit sheepish to know that my next teaspoon of honey reflects the life’s work of 12 bees (!) Thanks for the perspective, a reminder to practice gratitude.

Cathy lynch

Thank you for having bees on the farm, saving the earth one bee at a time is a good thing.
Beekeeping is so relaxing, enjoy the girls. Good luck on the Race.


Enjoyed reading this again. I think YOU are part worker-bee, Brent. So busy, so intent on your purpose and responsibilities. Hope you stop and smell the roses OFTEN while you do all that pollinating. 😉

Connie Wedding

Have you considered putting all yours and Josh's blog posts in a book? What a hit that book would be!!



Loved meeting you at the Country Living Fair in Atlanta, I too have considered adding bees to our green farm in Elora, Tn. Tommie and I are really missing seeing you guys each week on TV. You have inspired us in so many ways, it is also nice to meet kindred spirits. Please keep up the great work…..Marta

Rebecca Evans

Just saw a movie that you guys have to see! It is right up your alley. It is about bees and colony collapse. Very moving, inspiring, and fascinating all at the same time. It is called “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?” In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, a scientist, philosopher & social innovator, predicted that in 80 to 100 years honeybees would collapse. His prediction has come true with Colony Collapse Disorder, where bees are disappearing in mass numbers from their hives with no clear single explanation. In an alarming inquiry into the insights behind Steiner’s prediction QUEEN OF THE SUN: What Are the Bees Telling Us? examines the dire global bee crisis through the eyes of biodynamic beekeepers, scientists, farmers, and philosophers. On a pilgrimage around the world, the film unveils 10,000 years of beekeeping, highlighting how our historic and sacred relationship with bees has been lost due to highly mechanized industrial practices. Featuring Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva, Gunther Hauk and beekeepers from around the world, this engaging, alarming and ultimately uplifting film weaves together a dramatic story that uncovers the problems and solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature. Let me know what you guys think!


FANTASTIC!!!!!!! After reading this, I am going to look into Beekeeping!! It is something I have been looking at for years & you have inspired me!!!! You guys ALWAYS do!!! I have the new Cookbook & it is really great!!!!



I was able to leave comments on your facebook page but now I can't leave messages. Can you look into this? I can't leave thumbs up or comments….I have been able to do this in the past so I'm not sure if I was blocked or deleted…. Has this happened to anyone else?

Joyce North

What a wonderful post! I really miss you on TV! Is there any word on when your new season will start?

I just got a email that you will be in Austin, Texas this weekend. I live in Lancaster, Texas, just south of Dallas, but cannot come to Austin this weekend. I would love to meet you both and tell you how much you have brought to my life. I have laughed, cried, and just felt really warm inside from you both.

All my best wishes for you!

wendy fishbaugh

Oh, to envy a Bee. Such thoughts fill my head as I start each day anew. I have lived almost forty years and I wake each morning to find that our lives can be as short as that of our friends the Bee. Enjoy each moment.


We're looking forward to hearing more about your beekeeping efforts. We're busy planting a couple of acres of white clover for the six hives we work for ourselves, family & friends. Can't wait to see & hear about your progress.