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And is there honey still for tea………..

Helen Jukes’ A Honeybee heart has Five Openings is a sweet, not saccharine, warm account, filled with the sense of purposeful, satisfying, meaningful feel-good which bees seem to symbolise

It fits neatly into a growing genre of writing-about-the-natural-world which not only includes much interesting scientific information, but is also full of emotional meaning, to the writer herself, as the subjects become part of her own biography, and also casts a wider, philosophical, historical, and even one could say political/environmental net. She explores bees themselves, but her book does not place the writer outside beeworld. She talks about relationship, the relationship she has with the bees, and they with her. This is a book about another species, sure, but not purely a rational, objective analysis of that species. The writer is changed by her encounters with them.

This should certainly appeal to all those who devoured Helen MacDonald’s soulful and intense H is for Hawk. And may even sit better with readers who perhaps were at stages of their own lives where the intensity of emotion which MacDonald explored in her journey, was too much. H is for Hawk certainly had this reader at times riven with connection to my own human suffering. Jukes’ book inhabits some sunnier uplands, and does not take the reader into the darkness of the soul which, surely, we all have at times.

Reading it was an unalloyed pleasure, deeply fascinating

The author felt a calling, after moving from London, where she had at one point assisted a professional who helps those wanting to beekeep, to Oxford. She was at a point in her life where the grind of office work and its stresses seemed to be disconnecting her from inhabiting, properly, her own life – the rush many of us feel trapped in, which can feel aimless and lacking a real direction.

I like the thought of a stability that comes from fine-tuned communication, and not the sayso of a single ruler. It must be a restless kind of stability , I think. The messages come constantly and from all around, and catching them is more about receptivity than reach

Bees were both a way to get physical, and out of that kind of metropolitan chatter head, and to be present. Under their influence, Jukes’ found space and time made for reflection and connection. Bee teaching! Friendships, and more are deepened, as the author found how her own connections to the bees were enabling her to open up more to human connections. Bee meditations!

Through this experience of beekeeping, of learning about and listening tot the colony, I might have called something up – might have begun to articulate and name a capacity I was missing, a connection I needed…..A particular kind of sensitivity, a quality of attention which is…almost like a substance itself……What to do with a feeling like that – which is not rational, and doesn’t fit with the usual categories – except to notice it silently and with a sideways grin as it becomes part of my day-to-day

To sum up, far more beautifully, something about bee-teaching, than I can conceptualise, is this lovely quote from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.

I received this as a digital review copy, via Net Galley, and absolutely recommend it. Maybe if we all kept bees we might learn how to cooperate with each other …at times, it seems as if human beings are (at least on the world stage) more interested in taking hornets as role models!

A Honeybee heart has five openings UK
A Honeybee heart has five openings USA

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