Equinox – (Middle English 1350—1400, Medieval Latin equinoxium, for Latin aequinoctium, the time of equal days and nights); noun. The time when the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator, making night and day of approximately equal length all over the earth.
I’ve been hibernating, vowels and consonants hiding under the covers from winter’s raw edges, unable to organize themselves into words and phrases, dormant as the buds on the maple trees. Waiting. I worry about this, wondering if creativity will rise again, like the sap locked in those trees, and flow from pencil to paper to post.
I feel a whisper of this creativity stirring today, just as there is a rustling underneath of everything on this day of equal night. Out walking this morning, I watched a newborn calf tug at the teats of its patient mother. A phoebe, the first seen, investigates its nest site on our front porch in anticipation the arrival of a mate. Chickadees sing their lusty “hey, sweetie” chorus again and again from leafless branches, sap surely rising under the grip of their tiny feet. Seen from a distance, there’s an aura of red in the maples — as they shed the life in their leaves last year, so they rise, tiny but vibrant flowers.
Slender green daffodil spears emerge from their cloak of last year’s oak leaves. Rhododendron leaves, curled thin as pencils through February, are now broad paint brushes. I’m still waiting for the spring peepers’ chorus, though I hear that 15 warmer miles away, they made a tentative debut during a warm spell last week.
And skunk cabbage. Skunk cabbage! Compliment to the lotus Buddhists speak of, a purple-maroon spathe pokes through the mud. It’s one of the first sources of pollen and warmth for bees, for inside that little cavern blooms a flower. It’s about 70o F in there, a way station to warm tiny wings before flying back to the colony with pollen and nectar.
Spring is here and warm weather is coming. Yes, it’s time to think bees again. Actively.
Sadly, my colonies did not survive the winter; many other beekeepers in this area are starting fresh too. But fresh is good.
I watched spring play hide and seek one February morning while scrubbing hive boxes, traces of chlorine wafting from the steamy water in the sink. Through the window, there was a steady drip off the roof and I watched the sun break through heavy clouds only to be swallowed whole again and again. The pond still had a veneer of ice at its edges, its middle rippled by gusty winds, the sun bouncing off the water in a thousand points of light. Some of my hive boxes are old; I considered adding them to the scrap wood pile instead of scrubbing them. But, really, rotten or seasoned? Years of wax and propolis, both filled with anti-everything properties (-oxidant, -fungal, -bacterial, -viral). They’re probably veterans, having seen me through many colonies. They deserve a fresh coat of paint.
Do I worry about the chlorine and bees? Less than I worry about the vermin chlorine bleach kills – latent viruses, black mold – which in turn kills bees. The chlorine will have enough time to off-gas. And just to make sure, after their spa day, they did some time in the freezer. Next to the frozen chicken and banana bread and blueberries.
This super-cleaned equipment, freshly painted, is ready and waiting in the cool dark basement, just as bulbs and roots wait for the sun to warm the soil.
April 7th is delivery day, my unofficial first day of spring. On this day I’ll pick up two new packages of honey bees, flown in to Pennsylvania from California and then trucked to Connecticut for pickup by local beekeepers. By then, days will be longer than nights, the sun reaching for its peak at the Tropic of Cancer. And so, we begin again.