I think it was on our second or third date that Ash mentioned his lifelong dream of becoming a beekeeper. And earlier this morning, we carefully poured his first harvest of honey into 40 little hexagonal glass jars. I totally got to put the lids on!
Ash got his first hive three seasons ago. He spent many evenings and weekends travelling across England to learn from mentors and teachers, who all seemed to be bearded older gentlemen; fans of smoking pipes and drinking Real Ale. It was like gazing into my future.
Using jedi-mind skills that I imagine will one day see him voted in as Mayor of our local village, Ash managed to negotiate a spot for his hive at the community allotments in Chiswick, West London. The plots are like unicorns – they don’t even have a waiting list available: the plots are just closed to new people.
During the first season he opted to leave the honey in the hive to sustain the colony through winter. And then last year the queen swarmed and by the time order was restored, the bees needed the honey more than us.
Ash just kept up his weekly checks, and would return from the hive calm and happy, smelling of woodsmoke and honey (which is totally as hot as it sounds). Ahem.
I have never been a fan of flying, stinging things with more legs that me, but after a few visits to the hive, I really started to get it. The drunken buzzy drone of bees on a hot summer’s day is intoxicating.
And the process of a hive check is so methodical and ordered – totally befitting a Virgo introvert; Ash drops into this meditative blissful state, the bees buzz around him as if he is a long-lost pal and he gets to be part of the colony for an hour.
There are few things more awesome that getting to see your favourite human engaged in their favourite thing.
I’ve read more about the mystical aspects of bees: so many cultures believe that beekeepers are Shaman-born. Given how crucial the survival of bees is to our own ecosystem – one in three mouthfuls of food is produced with the help of bees – its easy to make this link. And to understand why so many of us are fascinated by what our buzzy sisters have to teach us these days: 90% of each hive is female.
Bee colonies operate from a collective consciousness – every larvae instinctively knows what is needed to ensure the longevity of the tribe. If bees had a motto it would be: ‘all for all, always’ which is such an appealing alternative to our prevailing culture, don’t you think?
I am so proud of my beardy beekeeper for staying the course after a lifetime of dreaming, through three seasons of setbacks, to arrive at 40 precious jars of golden goodness.
Each one will be given away with much love.
‘Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt a marvellous error;
That I had a beehive here inside my heart.
And the golden bees were making
And sweet honey
from my past mistakes’
~ Antonio Machado, Spanish Poet 1875–1939