I just had the most uncanny, coolest experience. It’s 6 PM. I’m out on a walk along a road that runs by a swampy river called Birch Creek to a fork in the road. The sky is this glorious blue with brilliant white and gray clouds. I stop and pick some ripe black currents off a little spindly bush growing down off the shoulder in the rocks and continue on.
I take the left fork, south along the hill and enjoy the sight of the mown fields, a scattering of green ton bales standing on the short meadow grass, and the storm clouds gathering over the hills to the west.
A few rabbits spook and run across the road. I reach the mile mark and turn back. I’d already done 30 minutes worth of shred before the walk and needed to get back to practice basketball with my oldest. The whole time I’m listening to Lois McMaster Bujold’s HALLOWED HUNT read by Marguerite Gavin. It’s warm, sunny, lovely. The story is good.
I come back by the fork and hear this sound over the audio. It’s like a single prop airplane in the distance. I continue on another hundred yards. That distant, thin drone grows, but I can’t figure out what it is, so I put the audio book on hold and take off the ear phones.
The air is perfectly still. That muggy stillness that precedes a storm. But all around me is this sound. This thin drone, filling up road. It’s coming from all sides.
I look down off the side of the road at the sloughs and cattails and willows and see nothing. I look back up. Look around. And then I notice a small black body speed past. And another. And another.
Flies? It can’t be flies. When have you ever seen a fly pursue a straight line?
Three more. Half a dozen. Another, another, and they’re everywhere. But they’re not flying thickly. Not mobbing. Not massed in some cartoon clump. They’re all spread out. I strain to see them in this odd light.
Bees. They’re dark. Almost black in their flight, but it has to be bees!
And they’re all around, thirty feet to either side of me. Zooming past. There, there, and there. It’s like dozens and dozens of refugees in flight with single purpose. There’s no looping around. No dalliance. No crazy panic. They’re serious, focused. All of them going the same way. Straight ahead on some urgent goal.
There’s a big fat blue dragonfly in the willows that keeps zipping after individual bees as they fly past, trying to get a meal, but each time, just at the moment when it would attack, it spooks and darts back for cover. Dragonflies are voracious buggers. But these aren’t single bees. It must be thinking the other bees are coming for it. Still it can’t resist and darts out again.
And all around is the humming. It grows. The bees directly in front of me see me as they approach and make course corrections. I keep walking. A half a mile and the thin droning still surrounds me. The bees keep coming, but they’re thinning.
Thunder cracks behind me. The wind begins to pick up. The sky behind me is darkening.
The sound of the drone grows thinner, is almost gone. But there are bees still out there, following. I can hear them. See them. Individuals trailing the others, flying past me toward the storm that’s still about a mile off. And I think they’re too far behind.
Maybe their hive was wrecked. Maybe it’s just time to swarm and there’s a queen up front leading them. And somehow her scent is on the wind. Somehow they know to follow.
I don’t know if they’ll find a new place. They’re going to have to cross a mile of mown meadow before they get to anything that might serve as any type of shelter. I don’t know if the wind will ground them, or the main group will find safety but the stragglers will be blown to their deaths. All I know is that I’m sitting here in awe, electric with life.