All abuzz

Listening to the bumblebees

It’s been quiet. Quiet enough that when I stop talking, as I did for many hours this week while plowing through to the end of a translation job, I started tuning in to other sounds. In this case, sitting out on the balcony with my laptop, I kept hearing loud buzzing at very close range. It wasn’t some far-off saw, part of the symphony of never-ending construction in this neighborhood. This was much closer. It wasn’t the thin whine of a mosquito, either. After waving my hand past my ear a couple of times, I stopped working to look, and I realized it was bumblebees. A lot of them. All dive-bombing the red impatiens I planted a couple months ago, which have gone wild in the rainy summer we’ve had. And me with my red hair, which bees often do mistake for flowers, right there nearby!

I had an intense childhood fear of bees, and even remember going back inside the house to change to long sleeves and long pants on a hot, sunny day when I saw bees buzzing around the roof of the porch. I saw my brother get attacked by a nest of yellow jacket wasps when I was a little older, something that nearly killed him because he hadn’t known he was allergic. Even though it took me decades to get stung for the first time, myself, I was always wary.

Having kids can make you reassess the things you’re afraid of, though. I don’t want my kids to grow up in fear of the insect world — after all, when it comes to insects, humans are outnumbered by far. While I think I am right to caution them about yellow jacket wasps in September, which is when they go a little nuts just before dying, I would like them to be able to admire a bumblebee going about its work.

And so it was that I spent the latter part of this week, crunched into the small space my balcony allows for a stool and a table just large enough for my laptop, typing furiously as I turned Italian into English, aided by the busy, buzzy industry of my new friends. The fact that I have never been much of a gardener, yet somehow managed to produce a bumper crop of whatever these guys want, this year, was also satisfying. I feel the bees perhaps brought me luck — because I completed the project I’d been working on for months, and then another one quickly showed up. 

And the bees did something else, too. They helped pull me out of some deep sadness, which began when I learned, earlier in the week that a writer had lost her life to cancer. A mutual friend of ours had introduced us, and we were supposed to meet for coffee one day last April, but that day she canceled because she wasn’t feeling well. We never managed to find the time again. May her memory be a blessing to all who knew her. I’m glad I at least had the chance to know about her. And, we have her words.

I’m heading into a weekend before my next scans on Monday, with results that day and the next. I’m hoping I’ll find good distractions this weekend. Tomorrow they’re calling for rain. Not good for the bumblebees, but maybe good to keep us busy indoors (and hopefully not going stir crazy in the hive).

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