Maht over at The Moon Topples is having a month of blogging photographically - in one way or the other - he's calling it Phoctober and since I rather like the idea, I've decided to join in. Go and take a look, it's a neat idea. I'm not sure what form my posts will take, but I guess, following on yesterday, you can expect lots of pictures... So here's today's offering...
In the book meme post which I did a couple of days ago, I mentioned a childhood favourite which is now so well read its pages have turned to velvet.
The book is Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge - a story about four children who run away from their strict Victorian grandmother and inadvertantly find themselves, many hours later and miles away, on the doorstep of a severe and stern vicar - who turns out to be their uncle. The book contains a gentle magic which completely captivated me. I suspect too, that as an only child, the strong sibling bonding also held a certain, much longed-for appeal. One element of the book that has always stuck in my memory is the role played by the bees. Goudge used the bees to advance the plot and also to add a certain majesty and mystery to her story.
The following scene has always enchanted me.
Nan, the eldest child awakes at midnight and ventures into her uncle's garden where she finds Ezra, the "general factotum" (who is just a little bit magical) standing at the bee hives with a bunch of herbs and flowers in his hands.
She asks him what he is doing and he replies "Come the first night o' the full moon I talks to the bees at midnight."
As the church bell tolls midnight Ezra makes a small offering of preserved plums and barley sugar at the entrance of each hive and at each hive he bowed and said,
'Madam queens an' noble bees, you sleep, but in your dreams you will know that offerin's been laid upon the threshold. For this moon, madam queens an' noble bees, extend your protection over your domain.'
"He stopped and listened intently, and Nan listened too,and she thought she heard a far-away music as though an army of little people the size of her thumb were singing on the other side of the world. Ezra nodded his head, as though in satisfaction, and taking the bunch of herbs and flowers from Nan he touched each hive once with it, bowed again and turned away down the garden path. Nan curtsied and followed him.
'Did you hear it?' she whispered when they were halfway back to the house.
'What, maid?' he asked, and he stopped and fixed her with his intensely bright eyes.
'The far-away music,' she said
'You 'eard it?' he asked in astonishment. 'You 'eard the singin' o' the bees?'
'Was it bees?' she asked, 'But they were asleep.'
'Bees sing in their sleep,' he said. 'But 'tis not often mortal ears can 'ear 'em. Maid, you be one o' 'em.'
'What exactly to you mean?' asked Nan, feeling a little scared.
'I thought as you 'ad it in your 'eart the moment I set eye on ee,' said Ezra. Then, a little shamefaced, he corrected himself, 'The moment I set eyes on 'ee an' me sober.'
They had walked on and reached the well and paused there and Nan asked, 'What have I in my heart?'
'The gold, maid,' he said. He stretched out a horny forefinger and laid it gently on her chest, to the left-hand side. 'In your 'eart there be a nugget 'o pure gold an' if you could see it you would see a shinin' like a flame. There's not many 'ave it, but them what do 'ave it can 'ear the bees singin' an' call the brid's to their finger. An' they can lay down their life for another.'
I suspect like many a wishful child, I wanted to have gold in my heart, be able to hear the bees singing and call birds to my finger. I set about listening to bees then and have listened ever since. Today I live in a garden with many flowering trees and shrubs and it is my greatest delight to stand close by and listen to the chorus of bees - and I always approach them with the following words in my mind "Good mornin' madam queens and noble bees...". I am delighted that they are willing to share their song with me and to allow me to come so very close to them.