For my friend, Armina.
Once, I had a pickup that, when you turned on the defroster, blew bits of dry leaves from the slots in the dashboard and filled the cab with a strong scent of honey. Each cold morning, while waiting for the windshield to clear, breathing the chromatic aroma carried me back to a summer in my late teens when I worked for my friend’s dad who was an apiarist. In the honey factory, we wore white coveralls and methodically lifted the rectangular frames filled with honey-packed honey-comb out of the hive-supers for de-capping—cutting off the wax covering the honey-comb—and then placed the frames in a centrifuge where the honey was separated from the comb. The scent of honey was summer, floral and sweet, and permeated everything.
Two thousand years ago, the poet Virgil* wrote:
. . . The honey-comb
Breathes to the air sweet fragrance of wild thyme.
And in our time, the beekeeper settles the beehives into the orchard just before blossoming. He hopes for warm still days when bees crowd the hive entrance, coming and going. The orchardist also wishes for warm days without wind when the bees work best, spreading pollen among pear blooms. Walking near a hive, you’ll hear the persistent bee-hum and breathe a complex floral fragrance.
Should you come across a patch of wild thyme, you’ll find it growing in a ground-hugging mass, the flowers tiny and pink. Tread on it, being wary of the bees, and the pungent scent will bring back memories—a Sunday afternoon long ago with the aroma of pot-roast (cooked with onions, carrots, and herbs) permeating the house and the relatives arriving soon.
Note: The Roman poet Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) lived from October 15, 70 BC to September 21, 19 BC.
Source: The Georgics and Eclogues of Virgil. Translated by Theodore C. Williams. Harvard University Press, 1915 (101). Google eBook.
Photo credits: Katie Eberhart personal photo library (orchard and beehives, 4/29/2000; creeping perennial thyme, 7/2/2000).