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Selected Podpieces


When you live in a small, fairly circumscribed neighborhood like mine, and faithfully walk your dogs through its streets every day, you can’t help but notice the changes. Someone paints their house; someone else puts in a lawn, or parks a new boat in the driveway, or suddenly has a pile of bicycles outside the back door, where before there was only a cute little wooden barrel full of petunias. This is always in midsummer.

Some people cut down trees, others plant them. Someone puts up a lawn sign in support of a liberal Democrat, others – far too many of them – put up lawn signs promoting a Republican. A car will suddenly disappear from a driveway, and you find out that its owner has stopped driving, or moved to assisted living, or just plain died. Sometimes a FOR SALE sign pops up, and then there’s an ESTATE SALE sign, and you fight your way through the professionals and in the back door and stroll around through the flotsam and jetsam of someone’s life, things that were precious or funny or meaningful and now are sort of grungy and sad and hoping against hope that a shopper with an eye for quality will rescuethem and give them a new life on Ebay.

Some of my favorite neighbors, as you may remember if you’ve listened to these little talks before, were the honeybees that lived in a hollow locust tree down near the pond. For two summers we passed that tree every few days and paused to listen to it hum, and watched as the worker bees zipped out the entrance and hurried back in bearing pollen and nectar to feed the queen and her multitudinous offspring.

This spring the hive remained quiet, and by the end of June I realized my local bees hadn’t made it through the winter. Whether they hadn’t stored enough honey to feed them all, or whether the weather was just too cold, there’s no telling; the hive was lifeless. I was pretty sad.

But one day in mid-July, as we passed the tree, my Companion stood still and said, “Listen!”

I stood and listened. The tree was humming. I stepped closer and peered in under the veil of poison ivy and bittersweet vines, and sure enough, honeybees were buzzing to and fro, and as I watched, a few came streaming in with the little baskets on their bee hips loaded with gold.

They were back! Or, more likely, another swarm of bees had discovered the available hive, which came furnished with honeycomb and maybe even some stored honey. Who knows? Maybe it had a little FOR SALE sign in bee language hanging outside. They moved in, lock, stock and queen, and are now living their beely lives, offering pollination services to the locust trees and bittersweet and apple trees and Queen Anne’s lace around them, and providing much pleasure to me and my Companion on our neighborhood walks.

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