Like bumblebees we are a social. We need each other to build restaurants, write books, and care for families. We move in, and almost instinctively, come together, assume roles and build.
As much as I want to preserve the open spaces where I have spent most of my adult life, I am also happy the city has moved in a bit closer to me. I am a city girl at heart and moving to the country for the love of my husband took a bit of adjusting. I am not accustomed to so much distance between places. City girls, even if they are from small, up and coming cities, are used to a certain amount of busyness that comes with proximity to movement — cars traveling to one place or another, neighbors going in and out of doors and accessibility to 20 places in the matter of a day. The stillness of the country can be unsettling to newcomers.
I have spent nearly a decade surrounded by fields rather than houses. A gravel road leads me home and springtime winds are often harsh and crushing in a place such as this where there is nothing to stop it. I keep the windows closed on days that may be beautiful, but too dry, for fear that a thin layer of road dust will find its way into my kitchen cupboards and coat my dinner plates. Learning to find comfort in the stillness of things, to make peace with the wind and dust came with time.
Our first year here was terribly dry and the grasshoppers had their way with home and land alike. Munching plants and screen doors, and hopping their way across my path just to let me know I didn’t belong. I hated them. They interfered with my desire for order and clean lines. They are like antagonistic humans who jump out to startle you each time you pass an open doorway. I hated them the most for that. Never knowing when their crunchy bodies would flutter out at me, and bounce off my leg, or worse yet, stay there. I still hate them, but like a recovering codependent learning to love a drunk, I’ve decided not to let it bother me and get along with my business. I’ve shown them the garden will grow, the screens will be replaced, and best of all, their jumping no longer makes me flinch. I feel that way about life as well, and all the joy and sadness that comes with the territory.
If grasshoppers are the dastardly neighbors everyone hates to have, bees are the neighbors from down road who show up with cake and sweet tea while you figure out life, then quietly go away and allow your friendship to develop slowly over time. We have tiny sweat bees, honey bees, and other bee like insects, but I love the big, fat and furry bumblebees most of all. I think of their buzz while whooshing by my ear as a courtesy, like a cyclist announcing his approach, “On your left!” I look up to see where my bi-colored friend is off too, then go back to trimming zinnias, clipping roses or yelling for my children who are inevitably doing something perilous and terrifying to me.
As spring went on its way and summer tumbled into its place, I spent most of my days revising stories, reviewing images, and organizing the pages of, my book, New Prairie Kitchen. I have also longed for the rhubarb and the time spring gave me with my son. Little more than six months ago he hopped out of my car and walked into kindergarten wearing his brand new running shoes tied with his own two hands. There was a time when he was a screaming, colicky baby and I walked the halls for hours trying to calm us both down. That was when his school days seemed so far away, and now, those first day jitters have come and gone like spring.
Somehow and seemingly without warning my tomato plants that spent the summer feeding the deer decided to wither and die with the first touch of frost. I can’t say I blame them, I was equally ready for the reprieve that fall brings — warming spices and squash, apple cider and oatmeal.
Now winter has forced its way here just as the book has entered its final stages. The manuscript was sent to the printer on Friday and the cover jacket was tweaked and fine-tuned then sent chasing after its insides across an ocean. It will come back this way in the spring when the bees will once again vanish into the cups of balloon flowers, and the mouths of snapdragons, and I will stifle my own first day jitters signing books and celebrating those who supported me through the process.