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Telling the Bees

julia telling the bees

My paternal grandmother married into a culturally Dutch family with a Scottish name (Campbell). There seems to be a Celtic (the shared language of Scots) tradition called “Telling the Bees,” in which every hive is informed of a keeper’s major life event (deaths and marriages). I have found paintings and poems, and I must say that telling my children was easier than telling the bees and definitely easier than writing my own poem!

Telling the Bees

To keep tradition, to tell the bees,

With reluctance, I suit up and walk down the hill

Because withholding the truth could be disastrously unhealthy according to tradition.

Toward the hives, standing like tombstones,

I approach with smoke and intention.

With tears and a soft rap, I lean down and whisper, “Grandma is gone.”

Hive by hive, the honey bees hear me, laboring in the darkness of their boxes.

Young foragers approach the entrance, orient, and leave toward heaven.

They see floral arrangements from the heights, meet as a group to gather sustenance for their sisters,

And return older and learned.