My Honey: The Bees Like Him Too
June 1, 2007
I really appreciate the days like today when we can walk to school as a family. Usually Peter and I too busy rushing off in different directions. My partner has taken time out of his regular schedule to come with me to VanDusen Gardens and record the bees. A few blocks from school I showed my son where I saw a spider enjoying a rather macabre "bee slurpee" in his web. The spider was yellow and perfectly camouflaged in the pollen and stamen in the centre of the bush rose. The spider had trapped a honeybee in its web and appeared to be sucking the juices out of it while the bee was still twitching and the rose's pollen grains were still stuck to her legs. "That'd be a crab spider, mom" my son said quite casually. Then he went on to list the many kinds of spiders he knew as he skipped to school.
Today marks an anniversary for us, of sorts. It's been about ten years since we last recorded the bumblebees in VanDusen Gardens for an outdoor installation we collaborated on called Divining for Lost Sound. Many things have happened since then. We now have a six-year-old son, a couple of new cameras and some new recording mikes! As I snap pictures of Peter holding the mike up to the purple Lupins, I marvel at how lucky I am to have a partner with such a quiet, gentle presence with the bees. I'm lucky to have someone who is willing to go to great lengths to get a good bee recording for the sake of our art. Almost seven years ago, when I had to have an emergency C-section the doctor was very impressed at how calm Peter was, To this day she remembers him as "the calm dad", and asks after him. He may have appeared stoic on the outside, but he also says he'd never want to go through that experience again.
I met Peter when I was performing at The Western Front here in Vancouver. The moment I asked to be introduced to him, a light went off in my head like a subconscious flash of insight that this was a profound and important moment in my life. It was! I was so impressed with what a great technician he was--sweet, inventive, and capable, I was smitten from the start. Luckily, the feeling was mutual, and the rest is our entwined history.
We spent the morning at the garden trying to record bee sounds without too much background noise. This was a challenge because of trucks hauling materials in for the upcoming garden show and several small school tours flitting about. We didn't have permission to mike the hives today, so we found some purple Lupins that were humming with big fat Bombus, and a stream in the background helped to neutralize some of the background noise. Peter says that with the headphones on he can here them hum when they fly and slurp when they sip up the nectar. Lupin smoothies! On our way to the waterfall we passed a man taking a picture of a mason bee in a rose blossom. Yes, dear reader, we stopped to smell the sun-warmed roses, and they were divine.
A few steps from the tops of the waterfall there is a beautiful green rock that has been cut smoothly across the top. I remember that as a place we sat in the sun chatting after we'd first met, and so I always think of that place as "our" rock. It's a good place for a picnic. Next, we roamed through many blooming rhodies to the English cottage garden and found one particularly vocal bumblebee whom we interviewed. Or I should say, she declined comment because she was too busy to stop and chat.
Unfortunately the Labernum Walk was buzzing with human noise. Some TV people were filming a silly vignette, which involved a woman on a chair holding a garden hose over two television presenters hold an umbrella. We finally hit the jackpot when we found the California Lilac bushes near the entrance of the gift shop. What a palaver! Bees of all shapes and sizes were gorging themselves at the all-you can eat pollen and nectar buffet. I've never seen flowers with such a broad appeal among the varieties of bees! It was easy to get the mike in close because the bees were so frantic they seemed unaware of us. They were deeply inside the nectar zone, as deeply as a child immersed in the bliss of a chocolate ice cream cone.
I love watching the bees by myself, but it is even better to have someone to do it with. I recommend going on a bee-watching date with a friend or a lover. Don't worry about bringing your parabolic mike or your macro lens; just have an unmediated encounter with the bees. Get up close and let some of that bumblebee bliss rub off onto you and your loved one.