I love making lists.
You wouldn’t know it if you tried to follow my organization schemes during the day, but I do make lists, and the lists I like to make usually have to do with things I love.
This time of year, a list might go like the following: the smell of cedar wood fires, salty air, and mudflats, the last fragrances of summer herbs, the color of asters and goldenrod and apples turning, ripe peaches, the sound of waves, round rocks on the beach, the cooler air in the morning.
One of my lists has to do with the people who live here, and the astonishing things they have taught me about everything under the sun — things I never thought I’d need to know, like where to find an emergency sump pump from a neighbor when the church floods in a rainstorm, and things that have changed my life — like where to find quiet respite in a hidden quarry in the woods, or who serves the best fish stew.
On any given day, I never know what new person, or new thing I might learn. A few months ago, some of you may have heard the story of a local beekeeper who saved 25,000 bees who had swarmed in a Gloucester shipyard. It was a wonderful story, of a rainy, rainy day, and a wandering hive of lost bees.
Confused, and protecting their queen, they buzzed into the Marine Railways shipyard. According to eye witnesses, the swarm was 50 feet long by 25 feet wide, and when they landed, the bees coagulated into a basketball-sized mass of buzzing wet dejection on a piece of scaffolding.
Then the bees seemed to consider a move to better quarters, and headed for a nearby electrical box. Naturally, the Fire Department was called, because, to their endless credit, they do come, for all kinds of reasons — even for bees.
This was one of the best stories all summer, so I hope you remember it, but if you don’t you can read about it in the June 28 Gloucester Daily Times. After many calls were made around the city, someone from the DPW suggested calling a local beekeeper, Greg Morrow.
Mr. Morrow, like the Fire Department, responded to the call quickly, and with gentle expertise, persuaded the swarm into a box, with honeycomb. The bees, perhaps grateful that a generous omnipotent sort of being had come with safe shelter and rescue, fell into the box, like a pile of wet clothes, says Mr. Morrow.
I read the story and I thought, there must be something special about a person who can convince 25,000 bees to go into a box in a rainstorm.
As a pastor, I feel privileged to meet all kinds of people. And sometimes I call strangers from out of the blue. I called Mr. Morrow. I said I wanted to hear about the bees, and he very graciously invited me to come by, and talk about bees.
I found his place because his white truck parked in the driveway has bees painted on it. When I arrived, he came out and we wandered down a short path through the woods, to a beautiful clearing. There, with wildflowers and long grasses, stood several beehives — beautiful painted wooden boxes with numbers on them, bee townhouses, bee condominiums, a bee village. Bees flew in and out of them, up into the sunlight, through the trees; some were lounging on their bee-stoops. “Lazy,” said Mr. Morrow.
We sat down on two chairs he thoughtfully placed at a safe distance from the hives. And he spoke of bees. Of honey and honeycombs, of sweetness, of making candles in the winter. He spoke of the character of bees. Of their industry, of their willingness to work together.
Then we spoke of harmony, and protection, and the sensible life of a bee. And all the while, bees drifted in and out, as the sun set. The bees are good teachers, he said.
Mr. Morrow spoke, too, of the plight of bees in our country, of how they are dying, of ways to save them. Then he asked whether I had ever heard of Brother Adam. I hadn’t. Mr. Morrow suggested I read some of Brother Adam’s books.
Brother Adam was a monk whose bee-breeding experiments with crossing strains of bees to help them survive are world famous. He lived a gentle life in a British monastery, raising bees, going on expeditions for hardier strains.
You could say Brother Adam’s work was a form of divine service, for we all need bees; our world needs bees; trees, flowers, vegetables, the foods we love to eat, these, too, need bees. And Brother Adam, in his kind and prayerful service to bees, served both God and neighbor.
Eventually, the sun set, and I needed to go home. I came away from the meeting with gratitude — for people like Mr. Morrow whose gentle kindness sweetens the world, for Brother Adam, for rainy days and beekeepers who know what to do in an emergency.
There’s always a story of kindness to be told. It might not make the headlines, like Mr. Morrow’s story did, but they are there, and they are yours to tell.
And for this pastor, those stories, your beautiful, amazing, heart-rending, heart-lifting stories of life on this rocky corner of the world, are as sweet as honey in the honeycomb.
The Rev. Anne Deneen is pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lanesville.