Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Quiet, Unspoken Wish

As many adults my age, I have seen the passing of my parents, 2 siblings, a brother-in-law, grandparents, and other relatives.  It is a loss one never "gets over," though one must realize that life goes on and one must keep living.  Writing in this blog is one way that helps me heal from the losses I've experienced.  I've had a wish that I could write some of the stories of those that have passed.  My fear is that somehow I won't get it quite right when I write about them.  But my hope is that I may capture their essence and somehow give my loved ones a life beyond what has been lost.

Please indulge me when I write about my loved ones.  And I would do the same for you, if by any chance, you needed a listening ear.

Neal was the heart of my immediate family.  A piece of advice he gave me when we were both adults was about the workplace.  His advice was that if a co-worker got promoted or received recognition, pat them on the back and buy them a drink.  No room for resentment and jealousy in this advice, was and still is my thought.  I'm not sure I could always live up to that admonition, but I know Neal would and did.

Not to say he was an angel or always did the right thing.  He could listen to an obscene Eddie Murphy monologue with the nieces and nephews at Christmas time, like any good uncle.  He was a cigarette smoker and enjoyed a good drink.

He graduated from high school in 1967 and entered the Navy soon after.  He did two tours of duty on aircraft carriers in the Tonkin Gulf during the Viet Nam Conflict.  He saw a man get blown away on their ship once due to an accident.  He visited Japan and developed a love for Japanese culture.  He was in an airport rest room once and standing next to him at another urinal was a man in drag.  Quite an experience for the small town country boy.  Another experience he told me about was getting back to the states and knowing "something was wrong" because of all the military clothes in the restroom trash...discarded due to the hostile reception military folks received back in the states.  I asked him once why he enlisted.  He told me, "I was patriotic."

Jobs were hard to come by after he left the Navy.  He had some tough years.  He attended college and received his B.A. in English through the G.I. Bill.  He still struggled to find employment.  He worked at the bowling alley for a while as a manager.  He then worked at the local newspaper and printing business, doing color separation when that was part of the printing process and printing presses were actually still in use.  I see it as an accomplishment that he headed and succeeded in making it a union shop for the printing workers.  A lot of the time he had some very thankless, under appreciated years, but he was well-loved by his family.  Always.

My father told a story once of Neal as a teenager accompanying him on a veterinarian call to doctor a horse.  Neal was in the stall trying to steady a highly excitable stallion.   The stallion backed Neal into the stall.  Dad said to him,  "Don't you open your peep or move, Neal," and somehow Dad quieted the horse and Neal got out of the stall.

Neal, don't you move.  I want you to stay right where you are in my memory.  Don't move.

How Are the Bees Doing?

As Bill, my companion, is a beekeeper, I occasionally receive a question about how the bees are doing or are they producing honey, etc.  Most have heard about the prevalence of Colony Collapse Disorder and the dying of whole bee colonies in the U.S.  It would be a terrible catastrophe, if bees died out.  I read one statistic that humans would die out in 5 years if bees ceased to exist.  The reason for this is that bees are the prime pollinators of plants, including fruits and vegetables. 

Bill has a few hives for his own use and as a hobby.  When his father, Paul, died in 1985, he made the statement, "the bee business will all go to Hell after I die,"  and it has in a sense.  Paul's words foreshadowed this current crisis in the beekeeping world.  According to Bill, his father made this statement as a general statement about the bee business.  In the 1980's, mites, that Bill states look like tiny red crabs, came in on a ship into Lake Ontario.  There are other types of mites that prey on bees, as well as diseases, like American Foul Brood and European Foul Brood.  American Foul Brood or "A" is the worst and generally, beekeepers burn the whole hive if it is found to have "A."  They must disinfect footwear, clothing, hive tools, and other implements if coming into contact with it.  It can spread from bee yard to bee yard if care is not taken, like any disease can spread.

Occasionally something will be released in the media, about possible causes of Colony Collapse Disorder.  One possible cause is the existence of pesticides in the environment which weaken bee colonies.  Bee colonies are highly complex and the answers to their collapse may not be simple ones.  Research is being done at many universities, such as the specialized Dyce Lab at Cornell which studies bees and honey production, looking for solutions to the problem.  There are several agricultural organizations that promote  honey and bees like the Empire State Honey Producers Association, Inc.   Bill and his father attended "bee meetings" throughout the country in the 1960's and 1970's.  At these meetings, innovations and knowledge is shared by beekeepers to assist each other.  In Northern NY, the Sustainable Living Project, a non-profit which has a green philosophy and initiative, has been helping local beekeepers in St. Lawrence County to learn and share knowledge.  A recent workshop by a master beekeeper, Mark B., of Brasher consisted of learning to ignite a smoker and keeping it smoking to calm the bees.  Some of the materials used in a smoker are discarded bailer twine, dried pine needles, and the dry red sumac cones.

The wise beekeeper keeps his or her smoker ignited, or suffer the consequences of angry bees.