Cemetery honey

One of the things I loved about growing up in small-town America was that the post office put out the mail twice a day—once in the morning and again in mid-afternoon. My grandfather walked the few blocks to the flag-topped building religiously, using the dual outings to greet passersby and learn “the news.” As often as not, he had me in tow.

His box, which I still remember was 122, had a dial with letters instead of numbers. He carefully turned it this way and that until the heavy door opened to reveal a letter or maybe a post card—not the shiny kind with pictures, but the plain kind that had writing on both sides.

He explained that the code to open the box was secret. But it wasn’t—at least not to me. Twice a day I watched as he swung the letters left, then right, then left, and I always knew which ones came next. I was confident that as soon as I could reach the dial I could do it myself.

On most days we just returned like we came. But on some days—the kind with blue skies and warm breezes—we continued east on the root-cracked sidewalk, crossed the railroad tracks, and then went up the hill past the church. He stopped to talk to everyone—people sitting on porches, sweeping their steps, or pruning their hedges. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. Sometimes people gave him things like sugar cookies, greens, and eggs.

At the church he would talk more, light a cigar, and I would play in the cemetery. I liked it there, but there were things I didn’t understand, like why some stones had flowers and some had flags, why some were big and some small, and why some lie broken and mossy on their sides. The whole place was odd with undulating ground, quirky plants, and statues of angels over stones that read, “baby.”

But the thing that most bothered me was the beehive in the back. It was a tall beehive that sat on the ground and tipped away from the craggy maple beside it. The hive was just on the far side of the iron churchyard fence, and it faced away from the cemetery toward a small vegetable garden that filled the backyard of a two-story wooden house with a clothesline that cranked off the porch.

Even though the beehive faced away from the churchyard, the bees still went into the cemetery. They were everywhere, sampling the flowers that grew beside the stones, along the walkways, and beside the fence. This upset me. There was something passively creepy about honey that came from flowers that grew out of dead people. Seriously. I worried about it a lot.

From the church we circled around to the general store, a place where they sold honey in combs. We didn’t always get to buy honey, but when we did, I always choose the darkest, richest kind called buckwheat. I knew what a field of buckwheat looked like and I knew that no buckwheat grew in the cemetery. While many people dislike the molasses taste of buckwheat honey, the fact that it was free of angel-topped babies was the grandest endorsement. To this day, it is still my favorite honey.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite.com

Comments

Lindy
Reply

Hello Rusty, recently I have sent you two e-mails. One had to do with this text regarding cemetery honey, I wrote you a little story about daisies. The second one was my tip about joining forces with Dave”s Garden site for the bee forage plants and flowers. I have received nothing regarding either of these posts. Have you perhaps not read them or where they not acceptable in some way? Please give me a clue. I thought I was being helpful. Kindest regards, Lindy

Rusty
Reply

Lindy,

I answered both. You attached the comment about cemetery honey to the post, “And you thought extracting was messy.” The one about Dave’s Garden you attached to the post, “Who pollinates the daffodils?” Once you attach the comment to a post, it stays there. When I answer, my answer goes there as well.

This message, by the way, you have attached to “Cemetery honey,” so that is where this answer will show up. I will try to e-mail this to you as well, so we can clear this up.

Dave
Reply

What a delightful story! I’ve been reading many of your writings, and you really know how to tell a story in such a way that the reader is right there alongside you.

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, Dave! I’m happy you enjoyed them.

Chuck
Reply

If I ran that beehive I would show up in a Grim Reaper costume when I did my inspections or harvested honey, just to keep everybody guessing about my business there.

Rusty
Reply

I like it!

James
Reply

I think I would like to feel that after my death I was nourishing the flowers and that happy bees played around my resting place. One more way to give back life into this world.

meggydh
Reply

I came across your blog while researching insect houses and love your writing. Your story of the Post Office evoked fond memories of small town life.. mine began in SW Penna. People laugh when I tell them I usually mailed envelopes with money taped in the upper right hand corner in lieu of a stamp. The PO employees would removed the money and add the necessary postage.

In college, I had a roommate who was an art major and she made her envelopes out of colorful magazine ads. Fascinated by her work, I copied the practice. One of my favorites was an ad for toilet seats! It had a virtual rainbow of colors available and I wrote the address of a friend (also in college) using one seat for the name, one for the dorm address, one for he college, etc. Arrows pointed from one line of the address to another.

Several months l mailed one of my creations from inside the PO. I purchased the stamp, added it to my outgoing mail and handed it to the clerk. Imagine my surprise when she said “Oh, YOU’RE the one who does these! We love them and pass them around before processing them.” And with that, she called to the others working in the back to “Come see the girl who does those home-made envelopes!”

Memories are like pollen… they start out in one place, and thanks to a little bee (or stories of) it travels far and wide, creating beauty.

TY for your story. It made me remember some of my own. :)

Rusty
Reply

One good story leads to another! Thanks.

Longtail
Reply

Ha ha! Great story. I live in western WA as well, and live 1 mile from a huge old cemetery. I’m busy building my first beehive, so I know my future bees will certainly be flying there to forage. In fact, I’ll probably see my girls there while I’m walking my dog (as I often do).

I suppose I’m weird, but I am thrilled at the idea that my bees will be visiting the cemetery and making honey from the plants there. Honey bees have been ancient symbols of death and rebirth and sacred to the ancient pagan chthonic gods and goddesses the world over for millenia. As cemeteries are sacred ground, my honey bees will be making blessed honey.

Rusty
Reply

No, I don’t think that’s weird. Anyway, I got over the cemetery thing a very long time ago.

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