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Birdland is overcast and dry. Though some sparse grass shows green, patches of the yard seem to be pounded dust. I try to remember when we last had a soaking rain or blanketing snow, and I can’t. For the last several days I have not gotten out to close up the chicken coop before dark and always find Marcel, the bronze Tom turkey, perched on the bottom half of the Mr. Ed door of the coop. He seems much bigger when I’m staring him in the face in the dark, and though I try to coax him to jump down into the coop with an encouraging push, he is stubborn. Also, since he is facing out, to jump down into the coop would involve an awkward pirouette on his part, so I have decided each time to let him stay and act as sentinel. So far, all is well in the morning. His bulk is intimidating, and I’m pretty sure a coyote would think twice about troubling the coop. I have decided to add an honorific to his name. He is now Captain Marcel, but I will try, tonight, to encourage him into the coop before dusk so I can shut it up safely.

A few days ago, I came upon a disturbing sight at the beehive: The door to the hive was blocked by dead bees. Now, a couple of dead bees is nothing to worry about, and we often find a few on the “porch” of the hive — a cobblestone patio at the front. Bees work hard, and when they pass in the hive, their sisters will carry them out the door to finish the cycle of life outside. But since I narrowed their entrance for winter to keep the warmth in, somehow, a bee or two succumbed to the cold when crawling out and blocked the door. This is a very serious situation. Bees need to exit freely, and I ran inside to don my protective veil and gloves, calling to Michael that there was an urgency in the hive. My husband came right out to coach me as I lifted the winter jacket off the hive and began to investigate.

Now, I don’t know if you realize that I tend to allow the depressive part of my personality to surface under stress. When I unscrewed the mouse guard — a wire mesh that keeps rodents from wreaking havoc on the colony and stealing their honey before I can — I saw, to my dismay, several hundred bees that had expired trying to exit the hive. I began to moan, predicting disaster. Oh! My poor bees were all dead through my own carelessness. I have lost the whole hive!

But Michael, in gentle tones, urged me to open the hive further to see for sure if there were healthy bees left. I took off the top and saw no live bees, and my moaning increased. Again, he urged me to investigate further and lift off the honey super to reassure myself the colony was alive and well.

Friends, I’m afraid I was rather snippy with him. I thought I had disturbed them enough, and more bustle in the hive would only lead to more deaths, and truthfully, I really thought this was the end of the colony. Besides, I found his optimism annoying, like he was not taking the danger seriously. Still, he urged me on, and one by one, a few bees rose into the air. “There’s one!” he would say, “Here comes another!” I tensely replied that a few live bees was not enough to sustain a colony, “Solitary bees cannot survive.” But he kept pressing me until I succumbed to his advice and lifted the honey super, and there were, indeed, a lot of bees.

“See? Now you can rest easy,” my husband assured me. “If you hadn’t seen those bees, you would have fretted and blamed yourself all winter.” I replaced the honey super and the mouse guard before wrapping the jacket around the hive. I didn’t tell him that I am not completely reassured; we’ll find out in the spring whether the population can sustain the colony through the winter. But I did appreciate his sentiment. Readers, I hope you have someone in your life like my husband, who can balance my pessimism with his encouragement. Michael helps me see that even when the worst happens, all my worry won’t make the outcome any different. Instead, I should take what action I can and leave the worry behind.

Encourage Beauty; Inspire Peace; Blessed Be

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. If you’re missing your weekly dose of Birdland Letters in the News Gazette, you can still read them every week in the Piatt County Journal Republican. Consider subscribing to support your small-town newspaper. You can see pictures about this week’s post on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of the Journal Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 61856. She wants to thank her friends for writing and will answer you all soon.

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