the bud & the bee

What passes for intensity in an Apis mellifera? 

I know she's blurry, but that just serves to capture the moment as this honeybee comes in for a landing on a spread of Valerian blooms. Take one look in her eye and you'll have the answer to the question. In fact, I've never seen a honeybee look anything but intense, at least not during the month of June. There's just too much work to be done.

Come late September, these creatures grow sluggish. It may be exhaustion, or just old age. I'll stop short of projecting human emotions on this insect, but when I encounter bees at the edge of the frost zone and watch them climb through spent greenery in a desultory search, I think of nothing so much as resignation. I can look forward to ski season; the bee, not so much.

Hence, intensity. Things are blooming; there's work to be done, and done right now.

From the bee's-eye view, this budding dill blossom bespeaks anticipation. It's a meal in preparation; it's sex on a stick, bulging under the aromatic, fern-like leaves I'll soon gather and dry. In the meantime, I take great pleasure in getting down to the level of the bee and visiting the natural architecture of the plant. By tomorrow, that structure will have changed, burgeoned out in shape and purpose. Only close observation is rewarded.

The June garden is full of such transitory pleasures. Here we are leaving the penumbra of summer solstice, phasing toward the heat of July and the promised "monsoon" season of the American Southwest, with its blazing morning sun and big-shouldered afternoon clouds that unleash torrents and finish with rainbows.

Eggplants, chili peppers, and summer squash are all fruiting up, and of course, the early tomatoes. Note the precise moment in time captured here as the dessicated blossom, its purpose served, hangs by the thinnest thread from the bulging green fruit. Moments after I snapped this photo, the thread gave way in a breeze. A garden is in constant flux.

I put in five hours on the patch yesterday—the kind of spending of energy that ultimately returns energy. It was sensory overload—the scents of the herbs and flowering plants, the taste and texture of the sugarpod peas and strawberries I grazed, the interplay of light and color from all angles, the soft swarming of bees in the just opened blossoms of carrot plants.

When I knocked off work around 2 p.m., the hot Colorado sun finally driving me out of the rows, I sat back with a cold, home-brewed Bock and felt pleasantly tired and stimulated. Maybe that's akin to the reverie of the bee.