Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Benny died. He told us he was going to. On Thursday morning he woke up and said, "I don't want any more medicine. I'm ready to die. I just want to do God's will. Do you think its God's will?" I told him I thought he had a pretty good line on God, that he and God would work it out. As for the medicine, that was okay. "Just for the pain." So he laid down to die.

By Monday, he opened his eyes and said, "Is this heaven?" I had the almost overwhelming urge to say, "No, this is Iowa," but didn't. Instead, I told him it wasn't quite, but that he had one foot over the threshold. I sat beside his bed and read the 139th Psalm from his tattered bible. "...if I take the wings of the morning and  dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there...."

Ben knew poverty like the back of his hand. He told stories of the Dust Bowl and couldn't forget it, couldn't forget the starving grasshoppers blackening the light as they gathered at the windows like pestilence, eating the curtains, the wooden sash. He couldn't forget the war and didn't tell those stories. Them that say do not know, them that know do not say. He loved soup and hash browns and his wife, who just passed last month. After she died, there was a family reunion to live for -- in Iowa, actually, which would have made it all the more confusing and unfair had I taken the self-indulgent opportunity to quote Field of Dreams in his time of transcendence. So he made it to the reunion, bought a cowboy hat in Iowa, came home and died in the arms of his beloved family.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

the bee whisperer

So there we were, napping on the deck....

Let me back up.

The morning began, as mornings will, damned early. 4:00 am. My husband is the only person on earth who sets the alarm for 3:30 and wakes up ten minutes early. So off went went to Seaside for sunrise clamming. Its not like you can sneak up on them. The 1.6 minus tide determined our schedule. I didn't get a full limit for various reasons: my foot, my shoulder, sneaky clams. I think we got 20 between us. It was work, the clams small, not worth keeping. But the rule is that you have to keep them if you catch them. If you dig for a clam and it is tiny, you're not supposed to put it back, but I have my own ethic about this. It is not in line with the great State of Oregon's Fish and Game Regulations, but it works for me and I haven't yet been caught. This is my rule: If I harm the clam in any way, that is, if I feel even a tiny little crunch, I keep it. If I don't, I just slide the little baby right back in the hole he came from, cover him up and act like I lost the clam I was digging for. It's called "high grading" and you can get a big fine, but I think its bad to take all the baby clams. So there's my rationale.

Occasionally I would look up from my hunting and realize how beautiful the beach is at sunrise. 

We were home by ten-thirty, threw the clams in the sink and both of us headed to our favorite spots for a deserved nap. At about two p.m., Kurt calls me from my slumber and says, "You have to see this!!!"

I rubbed my eyes resentfully, wandered out to the back yard and looked where he pointed: up. A giant swarm of honey bees was collecting on a laurel branch about 20 feet above our deck. The forming cluster looked to be about 8" in diameter and 18" long, solid bees, with many many many bees still coming, swarming around it.

Neither of us are particularly afraid of bees, but we have heard of colony collapse and urban beekeeping as a local hobby, so we wanted to get the bees somewhere safe. Internet to the rescue. We located Ruhl Beekeeping after making one call to a guy listed under "swarm removal" who said 20 feet was higher than he wanted to go. So we called Elliott somebody, or somebody Elliott, on Ruhl's list, and he came right over on the 4th of July. A woman named Kit came with him. She has a hive over on Belmont and her queen just failed, or died, and she needed a new swarm. Elliott had a homemade bee vacuum cleaner that sucked the swarm and its queen right out of the tree and into a hive box. Apparently, where the queen goes, so go the bees. Elliott said it was a viable swarm.

This is what else we learned:
Bee 101 by Elliott
Honey bees are not native to north America. Indians call them "white man's flies."
Eventually, in a hive, another queen will be made or born and she takes half the bees and leaves, thus creating another colony. This is likely what had just happened.

So, we saved the bees on the 4th of July and gave Elliott and Kit each a jar of the new strawberry jam I made last weekend with berries from Silverton. If you want some, call me. I can't eat it right now. Or ever. But I'm not thinking of it that way.

Day two of Medifast: The food is Soylent Green. Just in case you're keeping up.