Song of the Queen Bee

SH-queen beeI just finished reading A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell. (Highly recommended, by the way.) The book is a combination of beekeeping basics, the history of beekeeping, and sundry ruminations on the natural world.

And it’s well-written and researched to boot.

In other words, my kinda book.

Among the inclusions that Hubbell added to the basics of beekeeping is this poem published in 1945 by E.B. White (he of Charlotte’s Web fame). I had never read it before and it tickled my funny bone so I thought I would share it with you to celebrate the first day of summer.

By the way, you need to know that when the queen bee mates, she flies into the air pursued by the breeding drones from her hive and mates indiscriminately with every boy she can.

And as for the drones—well, let’s just say after meeting the queen, they buzz off to bee heaven with smiles on their little bee faces.

So without further ado, here’s the Song of the Queen Bee.


Song of the Queen Bee
by E. B. White

(“The Breeding of the bee,” says a United States Department of Agriculture bulletin on artificial insemination, “has always been handicapped by the fact that the queen mates in the air with whatever drone she encounters.”)

When the air is wine and the wind is free
And the morning sits on the lovely lea
And sunlight ripples on every tree,
Then love-in-the-air is the thing for me—
I’m a bee,
I’m a ravishing, rollicking, young queen bee,
That’s me

I wish to state that I think it’s great,
Oh, it’s simply rare in the upper air,
It’s the place to pair
With a bee.
Let old geneticists plot and plan,
They’re stuffy people, to a man;
Let gossips whisper behind their fan.
(Oh, she does?
Buzz, buzz, buzz!)

My nuptial flight is sheer delight;
I’m a giddy girl who likes to swirl,
To fly and soar
And fly some more,
I’m a bee.
And I wish to state that I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.

There’s a kind of a wild and glad elation
In the natural way of insemination;
Who thinks that love is a handicap
Is a fuddydud and a common sap,
For I am a queen and I am a bee,
I’m devil-may-care and I’m fancy free,
The test tube doesn’t appeal to me,
Not me,
I’m a bee.
And I’m here to state that I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.

Let mares and cows, by calculating,
Improve themselves with loveless mating,
Let groundlings breed in the modern fashion,
I’ll stick to the air and the grand old passion;
I may be small and I’m just a bee
But I won’t have Science improving me,
Not me,
I’m a bee.
On a day that’s fair with a wind that’s free,
Any old drone is the lad for me.

I have no flair for love moderne,
It’s far too studied, far too stern,
I’m just a bee—I’m wild, I’m free
That’s me

I can’t afford to be too choosy;
In every queen there’s a touch of floozy;
And it’s simply rare
In the upper air
And I wish to state
That I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.

Man is a fool for the latest movement,
He broods and broods on race improvement;
What boots it to improve a bee
If it means the end of ecstasy?
(He ought to be there
On a day that’s fair,
Oh, it’s simply rare
For a bee.)

Man’s so wise he is growing foolish,
Some of his schemes are downright ghoulish;
He owns a bomb that’ll end creation
And he wants to change the sex relation,
He thinks that love is a handicap,
He’s a fuddydud, he’s a simple sap;
Man is a meddler, man’s a boob,
He looks for love in the depths of a tube,
His restless mind is forever ranging,
He thinks he’s advancing as long as he’s changing,
He cracks the atom, he racks his skull,
Man is meddlesome, man is dull,
Man is busy instead of idle,
Man is alarmingly suicidal,
Me, I’m a bee.

I am a bee and I simple love it,
I am a bee and I’m darned glad of it,
I am a bee, I know about love:
You go upstairs, you go above,
You do not pause to dine or sup,
The sky won’t wait—it’s a long trip up;
You rise, you soar, you take the blue,
It’s you and me, kid, me and you,
It’s everything, it’s the nearest drone,
It’s never a thing you find alone.
I’m a bee,
I’m free.

If any old farmer can keep and hive me,
Then any old drone may catch and wive me;
I’m sorry for creatures who cannot pair
On a gorgeous day in the upper air,
I’m sorry for cows who have to boast
Of affairs they’ve had by parcel post,
I’m sorry for the man with his plots and guile,
His test-tube manner, his test-tube smile;
I’ll multiply and I’ll increase
As I always have—by mere caprice;
For I am a queen and I’m a bee,
I’m devil-may-care and I’m fancy free,
Love-in-the-air is the thing for me,
Oh, it’s simply rare
In the beautiful air,
And I wish to state
That I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.


I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to enjoy this rollick with E.B. White to celebrate the summer solstice. As always please share the  Carding Chronicle with your friends and be sure to subscribe to this website so that the next Chronicle can be delivered right to your inbox.

If you would like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.

Do a bit of good in the world today.

Delay of Game

LiWD cover March 2018Hi folks,

The production team for the Carding novels is behind on layout and design so we’ve had to delay the publication of the fourth Carding novel, Lights in Water, Dancing, for two weeks.

In the meantime, we thought you might like a preview of the book. So today, we’re sharing the opening chapter.

And stay tuned for a special offer—free books for subscribed readers!

Details to follow.

Here’s the opening of the fourth novel of Carding, Vermont, Lights in Water, Dancing.


Last Day of Winter on Sunrise Hill, Carding, Vermont

Tupelo barely heard the roar of the school bus as it turned back to town. She was its last passenger, and she still had a bit of a walk ahead of her before she reached home. The question was: Which way should she go?

Straight uphill toward the rivulets murmuring down the creases among the hills? If she chose to go that way, she could watch water drip from the last ice of winter. She knew some of it would refreeze on the rocks, making and then remaking tiny icicles. But some of it would stay liquid in the sun that was riding higher in the sky now. When that happened, the water would shimmer and wiggle in the light, reflecting the blue of the sky and the red tips of the twigs that were now free to think about spring.

Tupelo found water fascinating to watch, and she’d worn her tallest boots just in case she decided to go to that way.

On the other hand, she could turn left and hike to the Big Apple Tree to see if the redwing blackbirds had come home from their journey south. They’d be all full of chatter and chaff. Her favorite place of all places was in the top of the Big Apple. From there, she could see the whole Corvus River Valley, all the way to the waterfall at the head of Half Moon Lake.

Just then, the wind kicked up, tossing the still-bare branches of the maples and birches. Their shake and shiver reminded Tupelo just how cold it would be in the top of her tree.

She cast her eye up the slope of road that led to the home she shared with her family. As much as she loved them, Tupelo regarded the outdoors as her true kin. It was the place where she could always be “just Tupelo,” no one’s child, no one’s charge.

Today was the last day of winter, she reminded herself, and the last day of winter is a special day. Everything in the woods changed fast on the crest of a new spring. Tomorrow, the waters and snow and ice would be different in the creek than they were today.

“And now it’s safe,” she whispered to the wind. “It’s safe for me to go anywhere.”

Tupelo laid her books on the ground so she could reach inside her boots to pull up her socks. Then she marched straight uphill to catch the lights in water, dancing.


You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted,Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Light in Water, Dancing, will go on sale on June 30, 2018. And yes, it will be available on Amazon.com.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

If you would like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.

Tom’s Lawn

SH-JoePye weedHi folks,

I am neck-deep in the publishing process for the fourth Carding novel, Lights in Water, Dancing so I thought this would be a good time to revisit a couple of my favorite Chronicles.

I know that you gardeners among the group will appreciate the memories stirred up by Lydie Talbot’s time with a trowel. And for those of you who don’t garden, please feel free to indulge in the time-honored tradition of appreciative watching.

Enjoy!

—————————————–

Lydie Talbot glared at the dry-as-a-bone sky as she finished her morning cup of tea. Dry, dry, dry, dry—she couldn’t remember such a dry summer.

Like every other gardener in Carding, she yearned to hear the drip-drip-drip of rain from her roof. Everyone felt the unnaturalness of it. Even the kids racing around on the beach at Half Moon Lake were unsettled by the summer’s aridity.

Lydie leaned forward to rest her elbows on her porch railing, and inspected the browning patches in the lawn that her late husband Tom laid down so long ago. Lydie respected grass, that master of persistence, but she couldn’t abide lawns, and she’d tussled with Tom over the sod he wanted to put in front of their house.

“What sense does it make to grow something just so you can cut so it can grow again?” she’d asked.

While her Tom had been many things—kind and funny and handy—her man was not a gardener, and try as he might, he never understood his wife’s objection to his vision of a green expanse. “What’s the sense of planting gardens. Seems to me that all you do is weed them and worry over them and tend them just so you can cut them back in the fall so they can grow again?” he’d asked her in return.

The truth of the matter was, Lydie finally realized, that Tom wanted to buy a lawn tractor from his friend Elmore Tennyson, and he knew he couldn’t justify it unless they had a lawn. So after a lot of backing-and-forthing, they’d finally compromised on a his-and-hers package—Tom got a lawn to mow in front of their cottage on Beach Road while Lydie reigned in the backyard over squash, six colors of iris, tomatoes, bee balm, daffodils, beans, and anything else she could coax from the soil.

After Tom died, Lydie treated his lawn as some sort of shrine to her beloved, and even learned how to drive it so she could keep the greenery just the way Tom liked it. But after half a decade of mowing, Lydie started chipping away at the edges of Tom’s lawn, planting garden phlox close to the house, and orange day lilies by the road.

But the mix of intentional grass and flower beds wasn’t working for her any more. Lydie’s hands and hips just weren’t what they used to be, and she found her gardening forays shortened by joints plagued by arthritis. She now resented the perpetual stooping and squatting and kneeling made necessary by the grass’s insistence on growing where it was not wanted.

So after she finished her gardening chores in the fall, Lydie took stock of her options, and decided that come spring, the grass had to go.

As her daughters Hillary and Amy pointed out, it was always what she’d  wanted to do anyway.

The Big Green Removal Project, as her kids dubbed it, started with stockpiling newspapers in her garage over the winter, Then in early spring, Lydie took delivery of 75 bales of hay from Lee Tennyson, stacking them “just-so” along the edge of her driveway where they formed a shoulder-height wall. As soon as predictions of snow or freezing rain disappeared from the weather forecast on Dirt Road Radio, Lydie slipped into her favorite gardening boots, and started killing grass.

“It’s educational, in a way,” she’d explained to her friend Edie Wolfe. “I keep finding stuff that I never read in the newspapers as I lay them out. Or stuff I meant to cut out but never did.”

Edie Wolfe smiled. She’d always enjoyed Lydie’s perspective on life. “Doesn’t all that reading slow you down?”

Lydie nodded. “Yeah. But I’ve discovered the news loses a lot of its sting when you read it after it’s happened. I think the lapse of time gives you perspective on what’s important and what’s not. I still think the comics and the crossword puzzle are the best parts.”

But Lydie’s plans had been made before the rain goddess decided to withhold her gift of water from the Vermont soil, and her method of killing grass—covering it with a four-ply layer of newspaper over which she piled a thick layer of hay—needed water to achieve its maximum effect. Without rain, she was just creating a dust bowl.

Hence her hesitation.

She sighed, and opted to hold off on her second cup of tea until later. Grabbing her clippers, she marched to the furthest reaches of Tom’s lawn to a small peninsula under a stand of boxelders next to the brook that marked the western edge of her property.

The seasonal streamlet had long since shrunk to a wet ribbon but thanks to the dense shade of the trees, the peninsula had an entirely different ecosystem than the greater lawn. In spring, jacks-in-the-pulpit pushed their hooded heads up among the dead leaves along with painted trilliums and coltsfoot.

Lydie began to clip around the trees, dropping unwanted grass into a bucket by her side. She inched along, taking close note of the number of earthworms that silently glided out of the ground, and occasionally swatting at a gnat determined to land on her nose. She smoothed her hand over a thick patch of moss, and acknowledged the “chip-chip-chip” of a brown creeper that thought Lydie was too close to its nest.

The sun rose higher, and the small air current that had cooled her face stopped. Lydie rocked back on her heels then leaned forward to clip just a little more.

Finally, Lydie stopped at the edge of her disappearing lawn to spend time admiring the dusky pink of the Joe Pye weed that she’d nurtured in the wettest places on the edge of Tom’s lawn for so many years. She had a great admiration for plants that other gardeners called weeds, their tenacity in the face of human ignorance. In her opinion, there was far more to learn from weeds than the most delicate rose.

She eased herself down on a large stump left behind by an ash, and turned to look at her progress. By her back-of-the-envelope thinking, Lydie was about halfway to her goal of total lawn elimination. Even though she’d never voice it, she often wondered if she was being disloyal to her husband by taking away his beloved grass.

Sniffing loudly, she stared up at the hard, dry sky. “I hope you understand,” she whispered, “because I don’t.” Then she blinked, shook her head, and then blinked again, forcing herself to breathe slowly in and out, in and out. Over time, her grief had softened into a persistent ache which Lydie figured was better than the take-your-breath-away pain of the first year.

But it never went away. And neither, she realized, did Tom.

Off in the distance, a chipmunk chattered, a pair of robins swooped over the hay wall, and the earth turned one more notch on his trip around the sun.

****************

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted,Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Light in Water, Dancing, will go on sale on June 15, 2018. And yes, it will be available on Amazon.com.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

If you would like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.

LiWD cover March 2018

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.