As the High Holidays approach, those of us who love to plan and prepare special dishes to grace our own table or to be shared at the table of family or friends begin to write shopping lists and contemplate whether to use tried-and-true recipes or to be adventurous with a new dish. We search for that dog-eared index card, pore over Jewish holiday cookbooks, or click our way through internet recipe offerings.
Whatever I choose to make, I use honey as an essential ingredient, usually in both a savory and a dessert offering. Honey, that precious amber liquid, has been added to celebratory High Holiday foods since ancient times and continues to literally and figuratively begin the New Year on a sweet note. To contemplate the importance of honey and honeybees, the amazing and fascinating creatures that create it, I need only look out my back window. There I see the honeybees buzzing in and out of my backyard beehive, a complex community of hardworking worker bees, drones and a queen bee.
I suppose I am a beekeeper, although I consider myself more of a bee innkeeper, providing a hive for bees that come and go as they please. Having witnessed my bees swarm a couple of times over the years, believe me, when the hive doesn’t suit the bees, they leave in a very dramatic fashion.
On the other hand, when the bees establish themselves in a hive, it is a wondrous experience to watch their organized comings and goings to forage from flowers that bloom throughout the warm season. On the rare occasions when I open the hive to check how bee life is going in there, it is even more wondrous to see bare frames have been transformed into cells of wax that are filled with various growth stages of new bees or nectar that will cure into honey.
My honeybees gather nectar and pollen in the flower gardens of my neighbors, the wildflowers that grow in local public green space and my own flower-filled yard. In the fall, I harvest some of the resulting delicious dark and floral honey. Many of us have had our awareness heightened about how pollinators of all sorts, including honeybees, are essential to what fruits and vegetables appear in our food markets. We have also heard the alarm being sounded about the demise of many pollinators, due to most likely a collection of problems (disease, pesticides, environmental changes, etc.).
Honey is a gift from nature, whether harvested or purchased. This year, when we dip our apple slices into that beautiful syrup and lift our voices to praise the Creator of the fruit of the tree and to express hope for a good and a sweet year, perhaps we might take that extra moment to consider the wonder of the honeybee and the thread that runs from the blossom to the beehive to the blessing.
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