A murmur in the flowers.
It rained for four days in all, including a calamitous downpour Wednesday morning that soaked commuters walking to the train station. I was housebound, short on exercise, sunshine, fresh air. Though also liberated from a six-week ritual of watering first thing in the morning, tut-tutting over how dry the hydrangea looked, or the potted morning glory, or the struggling eggplant in the vegetable garden (which insists on producing bonsai fruit the size and shape of an elongated seedless grape) even though I had watered them all the previous evening.
Freed from watering for at least for a day or two longer, cheered by the silence of the morning-after (what, no rain?) and the hints of sunlight through the windows, I got myself outdoors for the anticipated pleasure of seeing how different things looked after their first good dousing in months. Foliage had the shine and fleeting glamour of truly moist things. The air smelled sweet, but retained the tang of the ocean which had offered its waters to the northeast winds. Tall stalks of phlox and Queen Anne’s lace swayed and hung down. Oak leaves scattered amid the sedum. A few stems broken. Some still open flowers lolling at shoe-top level.
I bent to the task, cutting things back to the shape of the season. Blown flowers, broken stems, tall waving stems whose day on the parade ground of the seasonal march was over. I pulled a few weeds, and the ease with which they gave up their rooted hold on the earth reminded me that wet days (not that we’d had any) were the best for weeding. I knelt to pull up crabgrass from between the bricks in the circular walk. I heard a hum.
A deep, steady mutter. Sort of an engine noise, a constant tickling of the ears that almost assumed the character of white noise. But once you tuned in, it was unmistakable.
Bees. There must be some bees around here. I lifted my head to look around.
It was not immediately obvious where they were. I started to rise and my eye level crossed the pink blossoms of a tall, eccentrically flowering Meadow Rue. There they were. Pretty much on top of me.
Three or four of these slender-stemmed plants had continued to blossom, producing new blossoms too, through the rain. They were all open for visits today from the local collectors of the honey bee sorority. How many bees? Maybe a dozen. Together, they made a hum.
One of things we miss when we don’t get outdoors is the sounds. The crickets. (Where did the crickets go when the rains came? The dry little whirr of the leaping, leaf-brown grasshopper. Late August is a quiet time for birds, but other animals grow more active. The bees are still gathering nectar, whatever they get from the flowers, to build up their winter nutrition reserves back in the hive.
We have a common interest, the bees and I. Flowers.
I back away from the tall stalks of the Meadow Rue, less out of caution than to give the bees room to maneuver. Pardon me; you were here first. They have a right to make a living. Besides, I like that hum; it’s life.
I get snippy somewhere else, and a monarch butterfly skips into view and darts from plant to plant. They move too fast for me to have a fix on what they’re looking for where.
I keep reminding myself that I won’t have this all winter. Not just the long flowering season as each perennial species takes its turn in the parade. But the whole sensory bath of the outdoors. I won’t have open windows. I had closed them when the rains fell and the temperature dropped; the days felt like winter. Today I am sitting in an indoor space that is partly an outdoor space as well simply because sights and sounds and fresh air are stimulating the sense organs and massaging my brain.
Green things keep us growing. The bees are keeping busy. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I close those windows for good.