Last summer when my fiancée Lauren and I pulled up to the prairie, bees boilingly hummed around our bee club’s hives as our wedding planning swirled in my head. We had driven to the prairie to check on the bees’ honey production. From the gravel lot, the bees danced from the adjacent alfalfa field to their hives that we would open up.
Earlier, in spring, I had proposed with my grandmother’s ring. The simple silver band with a diamond stud fit Lauren’s finger perfectly. Around the same time, we had joined the bee club and took a class with Arvin, the apiarist at the horticulture farm for the university where I teach. For several Saturday mornings the club met in a room with a radiator that pinged. During the meetings, I thought about the countdown until the wedding and all the planning to do.
Lauren had a yearlong list that we were checking off. The list noted things to do months (dress and tuxedo), weeks (rings), and days (marriage license) leading up to the wedding. Lauren and I were planning on inviting both our families in Florida, more than one hundred people, and that meant a band, catering, venue with enough parking, and ordering cards for RSVPs and Thank Yous. The ceremony had become more for our families than about us.
We had already been together for several years but knew we wanted to commit to being together for the rest of our lives. We met where we had grown up: Central Florida—multiple cities that sprawled over orange groves and swamps. It took either 15 minutes or 45 minutes to drive anywhere, and mostly via toll roads. Nobody made eye contact in the suburbs as owners’ dogs left turds on lawns. My boss chewed me out in front of customers at the restaurant where I worked, and Lauren filed accounting and blueprint plans for a construction firm that paid her as an intern. Lauren had moved with me when I entered grad school. We came to love our quiet, simple life in the Midwest. From the sidewalks, our neighbors said, “Good morning.” Lauren rode her bike to work for a non-profit. People on the bus gave their seats to older folks. In class, my students shook my hand. We belonged to a co-op grocery store and made meals at home each night.
In the prairie, I considered that we probably wouldn’t have discovered—let alone had the time for—a bee club in Central Florida. At a shed, Lauren and I put on bonnets and then walked over to the white boxy hives. Throughout summer the club had added levels of “supers,” stacking the hives into miniature towering apartments. Lifting the roof, I squeezed a smoldering smoker’s accordion-like pump filled with smoldering burlap. Lauren used a beebrush to wipe off the frames with “the ladies” (as Arvin called the all-female workers). I scraped and pried the gluey propolis off edges with the crowbar-like hive-tool. I pulled up a heavy frame with uncapped comb oozing honey.
As the bees rose in a smoky stupor, my thoughts on the wedding cleared. We were getting married for the continual days together that would fill with moments: playing rummy at the kitchen table, pouring water along the rows of our backyard garden, watching the green flickers from lightning bugs through the screened windows, huddling under the basement stairs as the tornado sirens wailed, wearing hats inside the house during winter, and dabbing our fingers in the first taste of tens of thousands of flights.
This essay first appeared in Edible Iowa River Valley.
Chris Wiewiora is from Orlando, Florida but currently lives with his wife in Ames where he earned his MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University. His nonfiction has been anthologized in Best Food Writing 2013 and published in Gastronomica, Graze, Make, and many other magazines. Read more at www.chriswiewiora.com
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