A letter for the bees

To the bees living in my chimney,

I always mention you whenever I write about spring, summer and the arrival of a cold winter snap. I think many people see you as an image — a metaphor for life, work and rest. I do not think many people realise you really do live in my chimney. A hive too far down the breast to be removed without causing damage. A colony we keep safe because it would be illegal to kill you and, in truth, I’ve learned to love you.

I remember when we first met. The indecipherable noise which hung latent in the garden air. The drone of something. The thrum of life. It wasn’t until we looked, eyes shielded against the bright sun, that we spotted your silhouettes bouncing jovially against the sky, in and out of the weep hole in our chimney. And then we heard the joke. The next door neighbour wondering if we were told the house was ‘Subject to Bees’ rather than ‘Fees’ when the landlords gave us the keys.

I apologise that our first reaction was how to rid ourselves of you. I spent so long wondering if soon you would move on. I spent so long in fear that you’d swarm us. I apologise for my first reaction being punishment when you had not even done anything warranting forgiveness.

We have lived with you for nearly three years now. You arrive in March and leave us in September. I look for you every year — when the sun begins to shine for longer and the garden pulses with heat, I turn my eyes to the sky and see you, only a few at first, the first workers of the season. I look forward to seeing you in family numbers; hearing the buzz steadily scoring my happiest months. The months I can enjoy the outside and feel lighter.

I can hear you if I press my ear to the chimney breast inside. A quieter hum but a sign that life goes on and on. Sometimes I save you, overworked and shivering on the patio. Often I watch you adorning the plum tree, the elder tree and the shrubs we do not know how to name in the garden. You favour the red berries and the violet blue flowers. You never swarm. You never sting. You never even settle. You continue. And I admire you.

Thank you. Thank you for building a home in this house, for making a home of the garden. Thank you for staying and for showing me how powerful it is to rest; thank you for showing me how beautiful it is to come alive again.

Forever grateful,

Your house guest.