Joanna and the sleeping bees.

It felt very coastal this morning with high fog and chill breeze. Along the front walk where I have allowed a volunteer sunflower to grow in the middle of the germander, one flower was close enough for me to notice the cluster of bees.

How did they happen to all bed down for the night on that one flower? Were they even alive? A half-hour later on my way to the car to drive to church I stopped by again; one or two had left, and the others had shifted position, but were quite motionless. About noon, not one remained. [Update: the next morning they were back, and after watching them off and on for an hour, I think they are not bees, but hoverflies. I’ve mistaken them for bees before.] [UPDATE No. 2: I was right the first time. They are bees. They fold their wings over each other, but flies leave theirs splayed out. I think I’ve learned this more than once, on a site such as Beekeeping Like a Girl. And other differences…]

Today was the day we celebrated St. Joanna, and it was also the meeting of our parish women’s book group — in my garden! The weather was as perfect as could be for that. Our group of six included several gardeners who didn’t sit down until we’d discussed borage and the borage flowers hanging into the pathway. The bees draw your attention to them! I quickly dug up a few of the many little borage volunteers for a couple of women to take home later.

It just so happened I had made two trays of borage ice cubes and it was time for me to add them to the lemonade so we could start talking about Frankenstein.

The table where we sat is near my garden icon stand with the stone icon of Christ’s mother; for the day’s commemoration I nestled a TV tray under the olive tree to hold a few more icons. You can read here why I included St. John the Baptist among them.

Early in our talk about Frankenstein I showed the group this adaptation of the novel that had been given to me, and it got passed around the table so that everyone could take a look at the illustrations.

We had a lively discussion about elements of the story, and also concerning ethical questions about the uses of science that are still pertinent in our day. I read only a few lines to the group from this article in the current issue of The New Atlantis about recent questionable experiments.

Various of the readers in our group knew more than I about the historical and philosophical context in which Frankenstein was written, which made it a pleasure to be with them and muse about much more than what had impressed me personally. I think we all were glad to have read the book, especially those who before had only known the movies, but no one exactly loved it.

It didn’t have a satisfying ending, in that, as our moderator said, she had hoped for redemption and there was none. We all agreed it was too long and repetitive. Several women said they definitely wanted to read something “lighter” next time. What constitutes a light novel? Here are the (not necessarily light) possibilities we had brought with us. As we went around the table making our suggestions, it seemed to me that the enthusiasm mounted with each one.

  1. A Long Walk with Mary by Brandi Schreiber
  2. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne De Maurier
  3. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  4. Shades of Milk and Honey
  5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  6. The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge

My Cousin Rachel and The Giver were deemed too heavy. Milk and Honey didn’t engender any discussion, and I was personally torn between Potato Peel Society and Scent. Several had already read Potato Peel so they were leaning toward Scent; I was the only one who had read it, and I told them what I loved about Goudge’s books generally. A Long Walk with Mary seemed like a good one to read during our Orthodox Dormtion Fast.

So, we voted in a very informal way, and decided that in six weeks we will meet again and discuss two books: The Scent of Water and A Long Walk with Mary.

Before everyone went home, we toured the other side of my garden, and I told them about acanthus and why I used to not like it, but now I do. The acanthus is more beautiful than ever, its spires taller, and in their prime right now. My 24 lavender bushes are at the height of bloom, too. We got to hear from our sheep farmer lady how she made lavender simple syrup to use in cool summer drinks.

How sweet it was to have these friends to be with me for my name day. After they were gone, there was still lemonade left in the pitcher, and floating among the melting ice cubes, the lemon-bleached borage blossoms.

13 thoughts on “Joanna and the sleeping bees.

  1. I found “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” very interesting and also enjoyed “My Cousin Rachel”. I will look out for the other books you mentioned. Your tea table looks very inviting, and I am glad you were able to celebrate your name day in such a pleasant way.

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  2. Happy Name Day! It sounds like an excellent way to spend it. That’s fascinating about the bees and Frankenstein, too. I adored “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.” They made a movie of it on Netflix which is very good but the book is so much better — they probably had to cut bits for timing. It sounds like a wonderful day from start to finish!

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  3. This looks like such a lovely gathering in your lovely garden! We’re up to our eyeballs with getting permits to finally build! Maybe in a month…meanwhile, it’s the season of magical summer splendor- absolute paradise. Wish you could visit this summertime fall – plan for next year ok?!

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  4. What a lovely way to use borage. I have been moving to a rehabbed apartment next door and have not had the chance to search the bed I hope we will be able to keep after the remodel. I had borage in there last year. The Larkspur had reseeded beyond gorgeous which was nice during this move. But it is now time to throw in more seed and topsoil.

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  5. Acanthus is new to me. I wonder if it thrives around here. They probably wouldn’t like our wet winters.
    Happy Name Day.

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  6. How wonderful to have visitors to your garden! And, even better that it was on your name day. I should think the borage ice cubes were a big hit, and they were so lovely. I also see bees behave as you describe yours. They do seem to be a drunken stupor. Your photo of the day is definitely of the acanthus. It looks so like something I would expect to see in “Death Comes for the Archbishop.”

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  7. I read Frankenstein many, many years ago, and liked it. Nothing like the movie, which I haven’t seen, but have some idea of. I read the Guernsey, etc., – it was okay, but nothing to Goudge.

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  8. Many years to you on your namesday! What a nice gathering! The borage blossoms in ice cubes are pretty. The Giver is a quick read, though. I wish I’d picked up Scent when I saw it recently, I haven’t read it.

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  9. How wonderful to have a garden that is worthy of a tour! So many unusual flowers in your collection! I’ve never read any of those books, sad to say. Guess I should get them on my list! Sounds like a lovely time with the ladies from church. Lucky girl! Happy name day a bit late!

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  10. Your blog is soothing to the senses & spirit. Thank you for sharing moments & details of beauty from your life. I love your writing: “…lemon-bleached borrage blossoms.” That’s a bit of poetry. Also, the mystery of the sleeping bees. I love how you intuitively weave together these images in a tapestry. There is the horror of Frankenstein and franken-tech, but as Orthodox Christians, we process this horror from a mindset of beauty and grace. God, through his grace, remakes our minds and spirits into gardens, like yours, that invoke Eden. (I am inspired to bring icons into our garden.) And then there is your light, humorous touch about the book discussion. Enough horror! Something lighter next time. Even as we are surrounded by ever-encroaching horrors in real life. Or perhaps because we are.

    Thank you for including a photo of the book, the retelling of “Frankenstein” that my mother and I made, and for sharing it with your discussion group. I agree that there is no redemption at the end of Shelley’s novel, & it’s hard. When I decided to condense & retell the novel for children, I struggled with how to end it. The only image of hope I could find lay in the teller of the tale, Arctic explorer Walton, returning to his sister Margaret. She seemed to symbolize something to him – mercy, grace, human connection. We ended the book with an illustration of Margaret nursing her baby. Now that I think of it, there is a suggestion of Theotokos, a longing for Theotokos, in that image of mother and child.

    My mother, the illustrator of our picture-book version, & I sometimes discussed “Frankenstein” in terms of photographic negatives, too. Where there was horror, one craved the opposite. When Frankenstein’s newly animated Creature reached out to Victor Frankenstein, & Victor turned away with disgust, I couldn’t help but picture the opposite: God reaching toward Adam in “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

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