Bees at Midnight is a compilation of reflections during Mother Diane’s twelve-week internship on a farm in Oregon while on her journey to becoming a priest. This collection of short stories captures her beautiful experience and candid musings. In the coming weeks we will share one short story each week.
Preface (9/19) | Rock Festival (9/26) | The Parade (10/3) | Seeds and Weeds 10/10 | Cockcrow (10/17) | Housecats and Barncats (10/24) | Bees at Midnight (10/31) | Fancy That (11/7) | Swimming Upstream (coming 11/14)
Watch therefore—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say: Watch.” (Mark 13:35‐37)
In passing conversation, Father John had mentioned to me that he was going to have to get some bees for the red clover. The farmer pays the beekeeper to bring them to the fields. That surprised me a little. Somehow it seemed that the beekeeper should be paying the farmer for direct access to all that nice clover.
Wrong. So I had tucked that bit of information in the back of my mind and hadn’t given it much more thought. Mainly, the immediate problem became how to get the dock out of the clover. It had appeared seemingly overnight, a sea of red‐gold undulating above the deep green of the twelve acres of clover, spread so evenly that I, anyway, became suspicious and still am suspicious that the “certified seed” used to plant the field contained dock seed as well as the red clover seed. The dock was spread evenly, not confined to clumps the way most weeds grow and then spread.
Also, there was no dock anywhere else on the farm. So my attention had been drawn to the dock and to the parable of the man who sowed good seed and whose enemy sowed weeds among the wheat while men were sleeping. At first the seed company people advised going into the field and cutting out the dock by hand. Like the servants in the parable, this solution seemed the most immediate. So for a week or so there we all were in the morning, out in the clover cutting out the dock. That lasted until the seed company field representative came out and took a look at the field.
We were trampling over the clover too much. So we stopped, the hope remaining that like the owner of the field in the parable that at harvest time the dock could be gathered up first and burned and then the clover combined. The problem of the dock in the clover was for me a more mentally exhausting situation than physically tiring one. With a sharp knife and a keen eye, it was not difficult to cut dock out of clover, just a monotonous one. I knew the value of the crop. After seeing the failure of two successive hayings during the summer due to the rain, my feelings about the clover traveled back and forth between acceptance and frustration. There was nothing to do but wait, wait for a decision from the seed company about the certifiability of the seed and then to wait for harvest time and the hope of clement weather. I had all but forgotten the bees.
Midnight. I am asleep. I hear a persistent tapping on my door.
“Diane, Diane, wake up! It’s Jill.” I am swiftly out of bed and have opened my bedroom door.
‘What’s the matter?” I made a response something like this to Jill. I am still half asleep.
“Someone in a truck just came in and parked in the fields under the trees. I went down to see what was going on. They left these white boxes. I started to walk up to them—but they’re making buzzing noises, like wasps or bees. I chased the truck down the road, but they were gone. Should I go wake John?” Jill’s voice was full of alarm.
By then I was awake. “White boxes,” I thought to myself, “Buzzing.” I paused for a moment and then replied, “Jill, they must have delivered the bees for the clover.” I, too, was incredulous about the time of night. “No, I wouldn’t wake up John. It must be bees.”
“Oh…” Somehow Jill had missed the previous reference to the need to bring in the bees. She continues, “It’s pitch dark outside. Then I saw these headlights under the trees in the field. And this truck. I thought maybe somebody was out there making it or dealing drugs. Then they started taking these white boxes out of the truck and they’re buzzing. I chased the truck down the road, but I couldn’t catch them.”
“I’m sure it’s the bees for the clover. We can tell John in the morning.”
“Oh, okay.” There was obvious relief in Jill’s voice. We exchanged goodnights and I went back to bed.
Jill, of course, is from the city, from Brooklyn. The idea of midnight deliveries conjured up a wariness in her that took me by surprise. To be sure, she was the one who heard the truck come onto the property. Probably she had never seen the white boxes that commercial beehives come in. Only in the telling of the story and the amazement it produces in rural folk have I learned that delivering bees at midnight is a standard practice because bees are most inactive at night.
There were times during the summer when the ways of the farm life seemed most uncommon and undid our usual expectations about the world. Both amused and amazed by the sense of being strangers in a strange land at times, Jill and I would hum our way through several bars of the theme from The Twilight Zone.
There were lots of ways of entering into new dimensions of reality at the farm.