Monday, February 20, 2012

A Companion, A Beekeeper, and A Man With a Memory

My companion, Bill, came to live with me ten years ago this June 2012.  When we got together, he had been widowed the year before, losing his wife of 23 years, Sharon.  She had several health issues and suffered from chronic illnesses which resulted in her death.  There is a photograph of Bill and Sharon on the living room wall when they were young and newly married.

Bill is a man with a phenomenal memory possibly due to being a savant.  He remembers many weather statistics, history facts, coin collecting, sports, baseball, and other trivia. He is also a skilled beekeeper, having been raised in a family that had a highly successful bee and honey production business since the early 1920's.  The family bee business no longer exists, as his parents are deceased and his siblings are also gone.  He still keeps bees as a hobby and is very knowledgeable about all the ins and outs of beehives and honey

In the course of living with Bill and sharing our companionable love and affection, I have learned a lot about bees and what is involved with keeping them.  It has been an interesting lesson to learn about bees, especially at a time when Colony Collapse Disorder is in the news media  in the last few years.   When Bill works with his beehives, he quite often gets stung and rubs the area until the stinger comes out.  Occasionally, there is a hive that is more miserable than others and he speaks of the bees boiling out of it in anger when disturbed.  It doesn't help that one of the other beekeepers will bang the wooden supers that house the beehives and get that particular hive riled up, so it does boil out angrily.

Bears are not a friend to beekeepers and ways are devised to protect hives from the damage of foraging bears.  Some beekeepers place electric fence around several hives attached to batteries and set up cameras to view the marauders.  Other locations may be chosen due to being protected by lots of brush, such as prickly ash, or in areas where bears are seldom sighted.  The area around Fort Drum was formerly good for honey production, but now bears are often found there and do irreversible damage to what Bill calls beautiful hives.

A lot of sweat and labor goes into honey production and the building up of hives.  The hobby beekeepers who are in the apiary field on a small scale, generally wrap their hives in tar paper in the fall to winter them during the colder months.  Hopefully, during the winter there will be a few days of warmth, so the bees are able to have a flight out of their hive to dispose of their bodily waste.  If this doesn't happen, survival is not as optimum.

I have learned in the course of my lessons from Bill, that I'm not afraid of bees.  I sit in his truck sometimes when he's working with them and I have the windows down.  I have been stung once and remembered Bill's advice of not getting all angry about it and slapping and jerking around in panic.  But then, neither do I don a hat and veil and use the smoker to calm them as he does.  It is a mesmerizing experience to hear the hum of a hive, smell the sweet pine needle smoke, and watch Bill minster to these creatures as they form a haze of flight around him.  I have seen the master at work with his bees. 

Most likely, there will be more posts about bees in the course of my writing.  It gives me an abundance of material to write about and reflect on from our ten years together.  Bill's aptitude for memory, I will write about another time.  He has been written about before in other places and I hope to expound on what has been written and give  a fuller picture of him.  I hope there will be better understanding in the course of writing about Bill and our life together.  One person made a comment to me once that he knew all about that big German.  I take that as a challenge, in my own way, and Bill might add, "What's the matter jealous, because you're not one?"

Reading My 1982 Journal - I'm Still here 30 Years Later!

I have been searching the last several days for the title to the car which I recently traded in for a newer, used vehicle.  In the course of the search, several other things have materialized that I had forgotten about or have triggered memories.  Among them were two boxes of mementos that were my mother's which she kept in her desk.  Many of the items have meaning to me and are representative of her great love of her family and friends, her patriotism for the U.S., and her spiritual beliefs that were her strength in difficult times.  There are newspaper clippings of World War II relatives and friends who served in the military and the obituary of one who did not survive the war.  There is a picture of my oldest brother when he played pedal steel guitar out West during the 1970's.  Some of the items leave a few questions in my mind that will most likely remain unanswered.  At the bottom of one of the boxes was a child's pencil sketch she had saved.  Maybe it was one of the grandchildren's picture of what Grandma Lucy looked like?

Some other ephemera have emerged from this days of search for my car title.  Photographs I have forgotten about of pets, family, and friends, a booklet titled, "Relapse Road," that a spiritual mentor needed a copy of because she has given all of her own copies away, and some newspaper clippings of my own I've saved to refer to at some later point in time.

I spent time this afternoon reading one of my journals written in 1982 to 1983, a particularly difficult time when I was  hospitalized and withdrew from  a college I was attending due to the illness.  Times have changed in a lot of ways, and not so much.  I eventually recovered and was able to return to work after taking a technical course in clerical work.  There are many sweet and bittersweet memories revealed in my journal of that era, written much more neatly than I write now and with painstaking descriptions of what I was feeling and how I related to the world.  Loss was a major theme due to the disappointment of not being able to complete my college course work.  A boss I don't remember that kindly, told me to let me know when the IBM systems engineer harassed me and he would take care of it.  I was surprised to read this.  Another boss gave me a tip of $5.00 for a story time I conducted and suggested I buy a plant with it.  Sweet memory.  My father made the comment that my nose was red probably due to me drinking too much.  I wrote once that I enjoyed Sunday morning when my mother read the Bible to me. 

The elusive fire and flameproof pouch where I think my car title is safely kept has not appeared as of yet, and tomorrow I must go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a replacement.  It has been worth the unsuccessful search for it, to have experienced this journey of my past and others.  Yes, I am still here 30 years later and I've survived many more losses since 1982 when it seemed insurmountable to keep moving forward.  I have kept moving forward and beyond the losses which all experience.  When I have my history, I have much.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Speaking of crows: Watertown, NY

There has been much in our local Northern NY news lately about the problem of too many crows in Watertown, NY.  A city councilman, Joe Butler, has proposed a lethal means to rid the city of this scourge.  Other methods have been tried.  It has been termed "crow hazing," not to be confused with the fraternity type of hazing.  They have been a true scourge and I don't mean to find humor in the fact that large amounts of crow feces have been deposited on their local museum and other older Watertown landmarks.

My deceased father would probably agree with Mr. Butler on his proposed methods of getting rid of the crows.  Dad waged war with the starlings from the kitchen window with his rifle at times, so the less predatory birds would have access to the bird feeders.  I'm doubful this was legal, nor did he clear it with the Department of Conservation.  It was his way of protecting the cardinals, nut hatches, and other birds that he loved to watch at the feeder.

I am an admirer of crows and respect their innate street smarts and will to survive.  But we all know the saying about too much of a good thing.  Short of finding a combination crow whisperer Pied Piper type  to mesmerize the Watertown crow population, maybe Joe Butler's suggestion has merit. 

In my ideal world, someone would arrive on the scene who really understands crows, who can get inside their heads and know why they have chosen Watertown to multiply and roost and be a general nuisance.  I'm not that person.  Joe Butler isn't that person.  The person that could do that probably doesn't exist.  Crows, I send you a warning:  wise up and use your street smarts.  Someone may soon have you in their sights.  It won't be me.  You'll find me at a fast food place, throwing a few fries at the seagulls.