I was enjoying yesterday afternoon in the best possible way: lounging on the deck, a book in one hand, a frosty pint jar of beer in the other. The book was excellent: intelligent, eloquent and occasionally poetic, full of eminently re-readable sentences. Not a one-beer book, in other words.
But before I could return from my fridge with Brew #2, a honeybee found her way into the inch of Brew #1 still remaining in the jar. I fished her out, placed her gently on the deck rail, and watched.
She was sodden in more ways than one, and it was evident that even the encouraging warmth of a dry sunshine wasn’t going to be a quick cure. She was going to need a few minutes to collect her wits.
Eventually, she unglued one wet wing from her side.
When I looked up from the pages of my book a few minutes later, she was gone. I didn’t see her take off, but I like to imagine a successful — if slightly unsteady — flight to my backyard bird bath, where the honeybees congregate to drink water. This followed by an elaborate — if slightly tipsy — bee dance conveying that that amber liquid is waaaay better.
I keep several bird baths for — well, obviously — the birds, but have delighted all summer to see the bees, too, making frequent use of them. Their favorite is a monstrously heavy pedestal bath with a petal-shaped bowl. For years, it graced my grandparents’ back yard in Illinois.
My grandfather was a chicken man, but my grandmother loved the wild birds. So for years after he died, we would sit at her kitchen table during my visits and eat and talk and watch them drink and bathe — the chickadees and the robins, the cardinals and the finches.
When she, too, died, in 2011, the bird bath became mine, and the heated host to woodpeckers, grosbeaks and other feathered residents of Michigan’s wild and wintry Upper Peninsula. Two years later, when I traveled home to Colorado for good, I wedged the heavy bowl and pedestal carefully between the bucket seats of the moving truck.
It’s a mountain bird bath now, frequented by finches, towhees, sparrows and the occasional jay. But no one has appreciated the little oasis more than the weary pair of robins who reared two broods beneath my garage eaves this summer.
Bathing season is coming to an end now: I can feel it in the coolness of the pre-dawn air, and in the twilight that descends earlier each evening. I love the fall, and even the winter, so I welcome the changing of the seasons. But I will miss the birds and the bees, and look forward to their return next spring, as the wheel of our shared lives continues to turn.