Bees and honey became important very early in my life. My brother and I grew up right next to a citrus grove where someone kept bees. We knew honey because old men sold it next to the grove, in a dark little house that smelled like beeswax. We sweetened our breakfast cereal with honey and poured it on our waffles; syrup and sugar were more for Dad. We homed in close to the beehives at the heart of the grove, as close as we could get. Run and you got stung. Walk away slowly or freeze and you were fine; there would be other occasions where stings were unavoidable.
One year I wrote a school essay about the place. We were reading Thoreau, and I waxed philosophical about the furry bees and the rainbow colored lantana blossoms. As far as I was concerned at the time, going in there was going back to nature. (What an awakening I had much later, backpacking in a national forest.)
When I grew up, I went away to college in another state. I never got used to their sourwood honey; highly prized and highly priced, it was still not enough flavor for me. I stayed in 'Other' for twelve years. While I enjoyed it and needed to be in my own world there, it never felt like home. I bundled up and felt cold. My skin was hungry for sunshine and warm breezes.
A few years ago, I moved back near my childhood home. The grove is a park now and has just a few healthy citrus trees left in the mix around the walking trail, but the honey house remains and so do the beehives.
And let me tell you, I have been fairly lusting over that honey. Week after week, month after month, I tried to locate whoever was keeping the bees and kept missing them entirely. It's not the type of honey or the quality; it's just that it would be home to me.
My dear brother finally tracked down a lady who came to check on her bees. She didn't get much honey out of this particular location, but she happened to have one little jar of it. He told her all about our childhood and the old man we knew who once owned the grove, and she tried to give my brother the jar for free. No way, lady. I would have paid practically anything for it. To me, this was like taking home a bit of Brighid's sacred flame, or some water from Merlin's own spring in Glastonbury.
We tasted it and found more mystery. I immediately thought of tea tree; he thought he detected Brazilian pepper. Pest plants or not, I am savoring the sweetness right down to my soul.
It takes so little, and yet so much, to make a ritual. When I was alone (and yet not alone) I held up the little jar of honey to the morning sun and looked at the light through that honey-colored filter. I thought of the flames burning up there for billions of years. I thought of my own life-flame within me, and all the little sparks and flames from all the generations before me, living on through me and my family now and whoever comes after us, and all of the names of our ancestors and the names of the Divine flame.
I said thank you to the flame within us all.
May I always know I have a home. And may it be worth it all, to all of us, to have come this far.
Then I poured some on my oatmeal, just like I did as a kid, and it became part of me again.