A few years ago, when Troy and I first moved into our house, we surveyed the backyard and to our delight found not only a tiny, sun-yellow shed that became my beloved painting studio, but also several pluot, pomegranate and fig trees scattered around it wild and untended. I looked at them and saw mouth-watering visions of pies, cobblers, homemade preserves and other goodly savories. The visions were too sweet to ignore. Besides, my mother-in-law, Judy, lives on a farm and makes growing large, beautiful plums seem as easy as eating them. How hard could it really be? I thought. The pies beckoned. I stocked up on gardening tips, tools and fertilizer and went to work watering and pruning and feeding, feeding and watering and pruning. Nothing. I tried coaxing, tricking and even shaming the trees into behaving like a proper orchard and bearing fruit. Not a single pluot. Eventually I gave up, admitted my pluot-rearing incompetence and went back to buying pies at our neighborhood bakery. Imagine my surprise when last Sunday Troy came to the kitchen carrying a BOXFULL of vibrant, gem-colored fruits he had just picked off our trees, ripe and perfect. The pluots had brilliant garnet centers and sweet citrusy flavor. Really pretty to look at and too delicious for words.
We ran outside to marvel at the heavy, fruit-laden branches and wondered why all of a sudden the trees decided to gift us with a harvest. Was it warmer weather? More rain? (It rained TWICE this spring). Sun flares? Some kind of foreignland air vitamins brought over from across the Pacific? When we heard a low, thrumming noise overhead, the mystery solved itself. Bees. Lots and lots of bees. A whole hive tucked under the beams of my studio -- buzzing and matching sun-bright yellow and very, very lively. We owed the health of our trees, the plentiful gorgeous fruit and the many delicious concoctions-to-come to bees.
Once we saw the hive, it was amazing to realize how much it had transformed our backyard; the trees thrived, the flowers bloomed, everything seemed so much more vibrant and colorful and lush than before, flush with vitality, humming with life. It was also humbling to see the delicacy of the system holding everything in balance: bees, trees, fruit, people, like a very fine scale. One tiny change, one imperceptible shift and the whole thing would collapse, fall over, break. A sobering thought. A little frightening, too.
Now I share the studio with my bees; me -- inside, them -- out. So far, the arrangement has worked pretty well. When I paint, I can hear the steady hum of the hive, and it's reassuring and soothing and wonderful, kind of like the roll of the ocean or the pulse of a heartbeat.
As for my visions of pies and preserves, they came to pass and there was deliciousness all around. Troy went on a jam-making-marathon resulting in a heavenly concoction that is ambrosia, amrita and nectar all rolled into one. It's finger-licking-good and quite possibly addictive.
And I baked a cake!
And then another!
Thank you, bees!
bee pictures via Pinterst