The Accidental Beekeeper

I didn’t plan on being a beekeeper. It all started one afternoon when I was taking a walk around the block, and came upon a scene of chaos and frenzy. Some neighbors were having work done while they were out of town, and workmen had been taking down a big tree. One of the guys had been high on a ladder when his chainsaw bit directly into a honeycomb. People harbor differing sentiments toward bees. The guy on the ladder began scooping handfuls of honey, laughing and telling his buddies how good it was, unfazed by the stings. His boss, on the ground, was gripped by a terror approaching apoplexy. By the time I got there the workmen had laid the trunk on the ground and were trying to drive the bees away from the tree by several methods; most recently, they had set it on fire.


[Unpublished, Feb 2, 2007]  You know the sequence in “Fantasia,” that accompanies a symphony with colors, lights, and shapes that “embody” the music? That’s called synesthesia — mixing two senses, so that a violin passage “sounds like” a series of yellow dashes on a black background.   Some people have more of an instinctive capacity for synesthesia than others, and the most common way for it to manifest is to associate colors with letters and numbers. I have this kind of synesthesia.

Three Kinds of Childhood Innocence

[Unpublished; email to a friend, January 7, 2006]There are three things people mean when they talk of childhood innocence: vulnerability, ignorance, and moral purity. (I touched on this in my First Things piece on “Against Eternal Youth,” but didn’t have room to get into it fully.) A child's (1) vulnerability ought to stir us; we want to protect them physically and emotionally. That's one of our most urgent drives. But (3) moral purity is a chimera; children are born completely selfish, and slowly and painfully learn to make room for others in their lives.

The Passion of the Christ

[Unpublished, posted to mailing list March 8, 2004] I haven't written a public review of “The Passion” because my feelings are so mixed. I am so glad for all the people who are having their faith strengthened and renewed, or even finding faith for the first time. I don't want to puncture that. A friend at my church saw it once, wanted to see it a second time, then read a negative review (“the characters were flat”, etc). She decided not to see it again. That's sad. When people get disappointed with the film I think it has to do with what Coleridge called the “willing suspension of disbelief.”

Stem Cells

[recorded for NPR “Morning Edition” December 2003; postponed to wait for a “news hook,” eventually lost in a system crash]When reports of human cloning first began appearing in the news, a lot of us had the initial reaction, “You're kidding, right?” They weren't kidding. This bizarre field of medical research is rarin' to go. We don't have much time to consider the question: should it? The idea of a full-grown human clone is creepy enough, but what about cloning for medical purposes--making an embryo with a patient's cells, then killing it to use in the patient's treatment? Even here we know instinctively that something's wrong. We know it isn't right to mix up a baby in a test tube and then, when it starts growing, chop it up for medicine. It isn't right to make medicine out of people.

About Face, Christian Soldiers

[Unpublished, March 2003] I subscribe to a newsweekly magazine. One week the cover story is about Buddhists. I read the article. It is about spirituality. Another week the cover story is about students of the Kaballah. I read the article. It is about spirituality. Another week the cover story is about Christians. I read the article. It is about politics.

Pizza Trouble

[Unpublished, March 2003] I'm a pastor's wife, mom of three, short, plump and southern, so people are generally surprised to hear that I was once under investigation by the FBI for making death threats on behalf of the Mafia. It could happen to anyone, really. One night we were having dinner with a couple in our congregation, Bob and Cathy, while our combined five kids played downstairs in the rec room. My husband's gingery Chinese stirfry was disappearing fast, and Cathy's special Chocolate Overload cake was waiting in the kitchen.

First-time Parent Memo

[Unpublished, June 2000] MEMO To: DavidFrom: Mom & Dad, Inc.Re: Offspring Congratulations! Mom & Dad, Inc., are pleased to hear that you and Marcella have had a baby. Good work. Though a new baby is a demanding project (for further reference, see top end, bottom end, intermediate regions, etc.) we anticipate that this investment of time and effort will be as rewarding to you as similar endeavors have been to us (see family scrapbooks). While the project has been labor-intensive so far, with Marcella even pulling a couple of all-nighters there at the end,

Mosh Pit Manners

[Recorded for NPR “All Things Considered,” June 21, 1996; never aired] Thirty years ago, I was sitting in a stadium screaming at the Beatles and throwing jelly beans. We’d heard that was George’s favorite, so we were doing our best to pelt him. I screamed at Herman's Hermits, too, freaked out with Frank Zappa, and then it was the Stones. But it had been a long time since I'd been to a rock concert. Recently I piled my teenage kids and a couple of their friends into the station wagon and went to hear one of their favorite bands‑‑a band I've overheard enough to enjoy myself.