Like a hair perm gone terribly awry, frizzed, unmanageable, and impossibly unkempt, the wisteria tendrils and shoots amassed around the base of the towering black walnut tree in the side yard of Grannie’s house, that is, until sometime in late February or early March when the unruly mass of vines inconceivably transformed into a living, throbbing, buzzing island of lavender blossoms, green stems, and black-headed and yellow-headed bumble bees. The wisteria was alive with color and sound, alive with an invisible cloud of perfume luring the bees and me to her tangled mess; the wisteria with her siren song of smell secreted pheromones like a trail of little candies leading her children home. So summoned, so lured, so enticed, we all presented ourselves before her. She needed us; we needed her, the bees and me.
The black and yellow-headed bumbled bees penetrated the purple concave openings of each tiny bud sipping her nectar, brushing against her pollen, retrieving the first food of spring flowers draping trees and bushes in our small region of south Alabama. A week or two more, and she would have been competing with the azaleas on the front side of the house. I was not bedazzled by the flowers, by the pollen or the nectar; I was drawn by the bees. As an eight year old, I thought I was playing with the bees; but as an adult I know, I captured and suffocated them. In hindsight, I came to kill the bees. I know now that the reason I went to her, following the bees, was because I was bored. I was also powerful, and the bees were available.
With my bare hands, I caught the yellow-headed bumble bees. I stalked the blossoms, waiting for the moment of in-between hovering when I could see for certain that the head of bee was stained with a patch of yellow. (The black-headed bees would sting. I didn’t catch those.) When I snatched one in mid-air, I marveled at my ability to contain the bee’s aliveness in my young fist, to feel its beating wings and throbbing thorax in the palm of my hand and on the underside of my fingers. I felt the power of defying my natural enemy without being stung, of glorying in the impotence of these yellow-headed bees. I always wanted to catch more of them. How many could I catch? With a sharp butcher knife, I stabbed slots into the flat shiny surface of a mason jar lid. I deposited bee after bee into the quart jar, with a balance upwards of twenty most days. In the jar, the bees fell silent, no humming buzz, no beating wings, no vibrating body. Disoriented and drunk for lack of freedom and air, they stumbled and fell upon one another while my marvel wilted alongside the cluster of wisteria blossoms I had picked to keep them company.
I was a little girl enamored with the chaos of a living, throbbing, buzzing island of flora and fauna. I was a little girl unaware of the living, throbbing, buzzing island of chaos at the base of my little tree of life.
© Amy Persons Parkes 2013