Reading Material

People have been writing about beekeeping for hundreds of years. When you can't go to the bee yard, pick up a book and fill the void.

The Taste of Joy

Chapter 1 : The Joys of Beekeeping : Richard Taylor

My book is a rejoicing, and I have no other objective in writing it. It is not primarily meant to be instructive, except indirectly with respect to that most elusive of goals, the achievement of happiness. I can write of this because I have tasted it or indeed, because I have been expressing it in countless ways most of my life. This is not a boast but a thanksgiving, for there is nothing here for which I can credit myself. I love nature, and honeybees are among the most exquisite and inspiring expressions of nature. The life that the husbandry of them has styled for me is the source of my rejoicing.

My bees have not made me rich. Had it been otherwise, had this way of life been a source of wealth, as business and speculation sometimes are, then I would have had my reward, but that reward would not have been happiness. Yet the knowledge that I could have depended upon my bees for at least a meager livelihood has given me a sense of independence, which is itself a joy.

Such joy is no passive delight. Keeping bees in a serious way, with concentration and art, is toilsome, sometimes exhausting, frustrating and discouraging. But it is also made the more joyous for the overcoming of all this. The image of happiness is not that of the patron of an amusement park, nor is it that of someone burdened with galling work, nor that of greed measuring up its gold. Part of the image, at least, is that of a challenge met, a purpose achieved - and achieved with great effort.

The basic reason for any pursuit is to find happiness. Many persons seek it through wealth, power or prestige, and while some of them do find these things, it is doubtful whether they ever find more than the most specious happiness. The ancients, who thought more deeply about happiness that we do, were unanimous in rejecting these goals as sources of it. They thought that happiness consisted of having a good demon, so they called it eudaemonia. There is no doubt that the honeybee has been my demon, and an immeasurably good one as long as I can remember. Happiness cannot depend upon the gifts of our fellows, nor upon their approval, for what they bestow today they can as easily withdraw tomorrow.

We are all the creation of the same nature, or as some perceive it, of God, and we share this lovely earth with a multitude of things great and small. We were not given the world to dominate it, to subdue it or exploit it as though it were a kind of warehouse placed at our disposal and for our exclusive benefit. Rather, we were given it to make our home in it, to share it, to glorify it and to glory in it.

One's happiness is, of course, something personal, something more his own than any possession. We do not all find it in the same way. Some never find it at all. Possibly most never do, even when the means are at hand. But I have found my bees and all the countless things I associate with them a constant and unfailing source of it. I know that not all persons are of this temperament. Some look upon this obsession of mine with incomprehension, some with amusement or curiosity, while I in turn pity them, for they lack the capacity for these particular joys so fulfilling to me.

I can only thank God that, in creating this bounteous earth, He included these tiny creatures whose organization still defies the sublimest intellects and whose labors yield the golden honey that has been prized by human beings since before recorded history. Without bees my own existence would be a shadowy thing, like a world without flowers or without stars or without the songs of birds. The world of men is always uncertain, seldom inspiring, often a source of discouragement and dismay. But the keeper of bees, like anyone who has welded his life to the cycles and patterns of nature, can always turn to his tiny creatures and his craft. The bees have a perpetual store of surprises in readiness for their owner, but they also have a constancy beneath it all. No doubt, there are many fountainheads of happiness, but none equals those nature has provided from the beginning of time. Certainly human artifices, even those we have been taught to consider great, are nothing in comparison. They are not needed, in fact, are dismissed as encumbrances, by those who have tasted the changeless serenity that nature so freely offers.