When you spoke, the shadows of the trees swayed on your face, bees danced around you. The sun shined through the leaves to reach the fertile soil, making us feel comfortable and content. Not far away, the rippling sound of the water played out behind the bushes. The fragrance of flowers spread through the air. Everything was filled with vitality, without noise. All the species of life had their own kind of specific, internal calmness.
My encounter with Uncle San was like encountering anyone who is simple and kind. We weren’t able to find each other for a long time, but when we finally met, it was as if we were meeting each other by chance.
In order to acquire the most authentic forms of honey, during June and July each year—the honey-harvesting period—Uncle San stays in a small house without electricity under Changbai Mountain. Here, one can find the best linden tree honey for bees to obtain. Uncle San engages his entire being in this world; he looks at the bees so tenderly, as if he is looking at children.
Apart from human beings, bees are one of the most difficult types of social creatures to understand--- because of their obsession with cleanliness, because of their specific methods of receiving the world, because of their highly inter-dependent social structures, because of their generous contributions to the biosphere of the earth (some will quote Einstein: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”). And perhaps that’s why honey has become an almost sacred thing to eat. It is pure and it contains a highly positive energy.
The purity of the honey asks for the purity of the beekeeper—the two are not necessarily connected in our reality, but when the purity of these two sides meet, it is a real blessing from nature to man.
Uncle San had experienced too much in this world. It was only after he retired, that beekeeping finally brought him the joys of life. The process of making honey reflects more and more how free and easy life can be. Living a life surrounded by honey, fresh air, plants and river water enriches Uncle San’s mind, and transforms what we imagine as lonely and harsh days in the mountains, into an easy life for him.
The bees have become his friends. When the moisture among the mountains brings him rheumatism, he lets the bees sting where he feels sore, and this eases his pain.
And honey, a present from nature that should not only be enjoyed by humans, can finally again actas a gift of purity that connects bees and human beings.
(Photo by Hu Fang, translated from Chinese by Anthony Yung)