A Sting in the Tale or Too little, too late

Once upon a time there was a bee. Now, as bees go, she was a contented little bee, full of the joys of spring. A free spirit, she was at her happiest when on the wing in meandering quest for the next flower.

The other bees were in agreement that she was by far the best waggle dancer in the hive. Such was her love of life – it could not be contained and came pouring out of every pore, whatever she turned her boundless energies to.

She was also the kindest, smartest, most sweet-natured bee. Her name was Honey.

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One bright May morning, as Mr Blackbird hopped his Mesozoic way across the dew-specked lawn in search of unsuspecting bugs, and Mrs Butterfly alighted on a flower, wings spread to soak up the warm caress of the ascending sun, Honey found a patch of fragrant lavender to rest on.

She drew in a breath to drink deep of the sweet, herby scent. She loved lavender most of all the flowers. As she was savouring the sights, sounds and smells of the garden, her attention was caught by a harsh buzzing behind her. She turned to see a surly-looking wasp perched on the violet bracts of a nearby lavender stem. He looked intriguing. A little odd perhaps, but she was strangely drawn to this creature.

The wasp’s name was Nettle. He was a spikey customer. A malcontented soul, aloof and alone with no hive to call home and only worries and bugbears where Honey had curiosities and joys.

Nettle convinced Honey to come back to his home, which was little more than a hole he had excavated in the rockery. As hermitic and ascetic as he was, generally shunning companions and conversation in favour of his own sour company, he couldn’t help but obey the strange swellings of feeling which Honey had stirred in his chest. He had tasted of Honey, and she was very, very sweet.

At first Honey was happy to leave behind the hive, since Nettle was such an intriguing companion. He could be cranky, waspish even, but through the grey clouds of his brooding temperament, a few tantalising rays of something sunnier shone through every now and again, the tentative and fleeting light of a good soul, hidden but struggling to be found.

As Spring rolled into Summer, Honey began to draw out more and more of Nettle’s sweet nature, his humour, his ‘bee-ness’. At times Nettle could be terribly cruel, and Honey felt the sharp stab of his sting on more than one occasion. But she stayed with Nettle, in the dank dark of his earthen chamber, because she loved him, and she thought that, in time, he would come to love her.

Nettle was a talented writer, and Honey was in his thrall whenever he read one of his latest poems by the fireside, as they settled in for another evening in their quiet little home. Through the delight and enchantment of his fine words, there was a vague, undefined sadness that nagged at Honey’s heart, an unrealised desire for something more, a life fuller and richer and more varied beyond the loamy walls of their subterranean nest. But Honey paid it no heed, as she buzzed her wings in appreciation, imploring Nettle to read “just one more” verse.

frenchbeesOne evening Honey was feeling particularly light and giddy. She had been caught in a reverie, fondly remembering the lavish hive parties of her previous life, where the honey would flow, and the waggle dancing would go on well into the night, when she and her dear friend Pollie would always be the last bees standing. She buzzed up to Nettle excitedly and implored him to dance with her. Nettle was in a foul mood and, wheeling around tetchily, rebuked her with words intended to sting:

“Wasps don’t waggle dance, it’s foolish and stupid and so are you, Honey. Now leave me in peace, you frivolous girl”. That night Honey cried herself to sleep. She missed the hive and her friends and the simple pleasures of the garden. She missed being happy-go-lucky and carefree. She missed being Honey.

common-wasp-stingNow, Nettle wasn’t a bad hymenoptera. It was just that he was used to being alone, and his waspishness, his tendency to complaint and criticism, the regular expressions of his captious and tetchy nature were for him, a curious kind of comfort. It was not in his nature, as it was for Honey, to seek solace and sympatico in others. He was slow to trust and quick to judge, and in short he didn’t know how to be sweet like Honey. As much as he loved and appreciated and admired Honey, he couldn’t show it, or at least not consistently, and not without stinging. In fact, quite the opposite. As poor Honey would discover.

The balmy, sun-kissed days of Summer gradually acquiesced to the wind-bitten advances of Autumn. Honey had long since given up hope of  being happy again. She and Nettle no longer enjoyed poems by the fire, or anything much for that matter. As Honey’s inner light died, so too did Nettle’s already meagre attempts to connect with her. Just as Honey’s pure and loving spirit had breathed life into their relationship, so too did her steady diminution into melancholy occasion it’s death.

Death has many forms, the physical just one. But it isn’t only bodies that can die. Hopes, cultures, memories, ideas and loves can all be starved at the root, consigned to eternal erasure.

One chill morning Nettle awoke to find Honey not at his side. He went outside the nest to find the garden swathed in a blanket of white, the snowfall was heavy last night, he thought to himself. As he yawned a whisping trail of vapour into the freezing morning air, he saw a shape ahead of him, quite still on the frozen ground. A familiar yellow and black form crumpled in a heap.

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Flying over he immediately recognised it as Honey, cold and dead, next to a single snowdrop which had emerged, defiantly, from the snow. In that moment Nettle felt a stab of something that was new and unknown to him. His legs gave way and he crumpled to the cold whiteness below, his head resting on Honey. A surge of sadness overwhelmed him, and he felt as though he was drowning as a mighty river of feeling burst within him.

Tears flowed as he heard a cracked, guttural cry of grief take flight from his mouth. His love for Honey was pouring out. Deluging and crashing like terrible waves around him. Stinging him with a million barbs.

On that frozen winter morning, as Mr Blackbird hopped his Mesozoic way across the entombed lawn in hopeful search for breadcrumbs, Nettle found his heart. He expressed his love.

But it was a futile love. Too little, too late.

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