"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you begin to eat it which was better than when you were, but he did not know what it was called."
-A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
We sat in the shade of an awning on Prince George St. in Williamsburg, sipping draft root-beer and freshly-squeezed limeade from Retro's . One of those summer days so rare in Virginia, where the shade actually has an effect because July forgets to exhale humidity across the land. Our bellies were full from a picnic fit for royals, mine from the picnic, a salted caramel truffle, and a rare chai tea latte. Later I might worry about the effect such dissipation would have on my waist, but we were there to celebrate my birthday and waistlines have no place in birthday festivities. Lazy day, lazy pace, lazy honeybee droning around our half-empty root-beer. We watched him, admiring his colors and the industrious way he syphoned up a few spilled drops before flying off in drunken circles.
Someone suggested we ought to leave soon, but no one cared to move. The day was too pleasant and the company too good. We did wander off to a basement bookstore, ran our fingers over the faded spines, found some familiar titles, ducked back into the sunshine. Antique books didn't belong to a day so golden. New books did: Summer Lightning, Blandings Castle, Cocktail Time by P.G. Wodehouse. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. All gifts from the generous set with whom I sat, watching the bees. When we returned to our table, the lone honey-bee had danced for his coworkers and brought several more to the root-beer feast. They buzzed near our faces. One of our party let the bee cling to the inside of his cup as he drank. There was plenty for all. Enough. Like the fullness of the day in which we sat.
"The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams."
-Henry David Thoreau
One risky young honey-potter fell into a glass. We rescued him and felt mildly heroic, watching him splutter on the pavement, spitting out the surfeit of drink which had got him into so much peril. Temperance, little honeybee. All things in moderation.
Eventually, the bees had drunk their fill. We had sat long enough in the warm afternoon. Must catch the ferry, catch up to the rest of our group, catch the joy of running with the water of the James River, Breaching it, cutting through it, chasing sunset across its current. So we spilled a little more root-beer, hoped the staff member in charge of wiping tables wouldn't be too angry with us, and left the bees to their business. I came home and painted the bees, small and sophisticated, and felt some of the day's leftover happiness well up inside me. Small things - the fragile beauties, I call them - are sometimes the ones that touch my soul best. Like taking time to feed bees in the heart of a quiet afternoon. I think we underrate the importance of letting oneself sit a while and do "nothing." As Shakespeare so rightly said:
"Sit a while and let the world slip; we shall ne'er be younger."