My husband has terrible dreams about all of the bees in our hive dying over the winter. It must be nice for him because my nightmares involve our child being taken away from us by Child Protective Services because we have failed to keep our pool clean enough. We don't even have a pool. Although, the bees would love it if we did because then, constant, easy water source!
Fortunately for my husband, we've had a run of really warm January/ early February days (in Minnesota speak, this means above freezing) which means that our bees have made something of a showing on a few days. When the sun hits their boxes from late morning through the afternoon, they've ventured out -- probably to dispose of dead bee bodies and defecate on our lawn. Hey, I never said beekeeping was all honey and romance.
The warmth has brought us out too. Little A and I have made more mid-day trips to playgrounds in the last few weeks than we probably did all last summer (when she was too young to do much more than stare enviously at the steadier, more mobile kids). The nice thing is that even on days when we don't make it to the playground, when we talk about what we did before she goes to bed, 9 times out of 10 she'll smile and shout, "playground!"
"Yeah, kid, we went to the playground," I'll tell her. Because memory is a funny thing and why shouldn't I take advantage of it's current state of total malleability to paint a picture of a childhood filled with trips to playgrounds for her?
So, the bees are alive and it's been, all in all, a lovely winter. There have been days that have damp and warm and melty in just the way that reminds us that winter will eventually be over and then we'll get spring and, even better, summer. These are the types of days are not necessarily the best by themselves, but are the best in that they that signify hope and renewal.
But here's the thing: they usually follow a long, hard winter full of shoveling and ice and snow and discussions of wind chill and comparisons to "the Halloween storm" (whatever the hell that is -- long before my time in MN) and foolish, outdoor, sub-arctic sporting (like ice fishing and snowshoeing and Loppets and dog sledding and pond hockey) and other events that are now getting either cancelled because there isn't enough snow or ruined because there's not enough coldness to make Minnesotans feel tough. In other words, Mother Nature, this winter makes us all look like a bunch of pansies.
And here's the other thing: it can't last. It won't last. We still have the rest of February and all of March and, as my husband feels the need to remind me frequently, March is usually the snowiest month in Minnesota.
So, not only do we not have a hash enough winter to feel, come summer, that we've done something to earn the good weather, but Mother Nature continues to toy with us. Spring is right around the corner. No it's not. Yes, it is. Ha! Ha! Gotcha. Our hope builds, only to be squashed by a sub-freezing (but not sub-zero!) day. It has been, perhaps, the cruelest winter of false hope and the "pansy-fication" of an otherwise proud people.
But the bees are alive. At least we have that.