My early childhood years were spent on a boat dock in Edgewater, MD. We had a home on a cove where I spent long summer days exploring the sandy shoreline. When I was about 6 my dad, the truest gardener I know, moved us a few miles away to a larger property where he could explore his farming desires and where we had more room to spread our legs as kids. Summers turned from childish ventures to lawn mowing and general chores. Assuredly, I never let it get in my way of explorations. His projects and produce were without a question sizable. He, never a man to think ‘less is more’, built gardens on almost every square inch of that 4 acres: grapes, fruit trees, a large strawberry patch, blueberries, brambles a huge vegetable garden, chicken coop and bees. The bees were to complete the environmental circle for our plant friends yet came with an interesting side product, honey. Every fall we would plastic the entire inside of our house, creating what looked like a crime scene from the God Father, collect the honey filled frames and begin the very sticky process of harvesting (hot wax knife, spinning caldron, strainers all included).
However, what I remember most of our bees was one late summer day, around this time of year that he and I headed down into our ravine to check on the hive as we planned its fall harvest. It was hot! We had on our silly bee suits, gloves, screened mask over the pith helmet and all. Popping the lid of the first hive, we quickly smoked the bees with our smoldering feed sack filled smokers and peered inside the hive. They had been quite at work. Honey was starting to fill every crevice. The bees were well under way with their seasonal project. Slipping one waxed frame to inspect the bounty I absorbed the scene. And, like any child my mouth started watering. Like any father, wanting me to fully experience the occasion, he offered a sneak taste. “Pull your glove off and stick your finger smack in the middle”, he says. I did, glove in one hand and warm fresh honey leaking from the tip of my other. My mouth was squirming in anticipation for the sugary treat. Opps, I still had that silly net on. Yes, tied tightly around my neck so to keep any misunderstanding workers from stinging me was my beekeepers mask. With sweat dripping down my face, hands full of gloves and honey I scrambled up and out retreating to fix my conundrum. I don’t remember if I ever did get that finger to my mouth. What I do remember is staring through my screen at a finger ripe for the sucking a wave of disappointment flooding over me and feeling rather separated from my opportunity and completely perplexed on how to resolve it.
The summer brings the random occasion when my kids tag along with me to work. It’s always a volunteer situation as they are of a fairly independent age. Yet this time of year when they do join me I find myself negotiating a trip to our black berry patch before the day is over. Picking the fruit directly from the vine creates a wholly different experience. It’s exciting, enchanting and truly magical. Like the privilege of taking honey directly from the hive, an experience only Pooh and I get, picking the berry from the cane or the peach from the tree is an experience all children should enjoy. My boys bound down the hill to the berries, later to walk away with a purple smile from ear to ear. I’m sure they dodge a close call with a June Bug or two, head dug deep in the random berry and hind ends almost blending in with the dark purple fruit. But it’s worth it. And I, loving to be that same father, privileged to treat my children to the same magical joys and hopefully, a special connection directly with nature.