Archive for January, 2011


Monday, January 31st, 2011

I came down with a minor something last week: light-headedness with an undercurrent of nausea, generalized joint ache, chills enough to pull the lavendar crotcheted couch blanket down around my supine form, and malaise enough to invite daytime television to lull me into a not-quite-sleep interlude of rest.

And when I rose, I wanted honey. I tried it first drizzled across a little schmear of peanut butter on crackers. Then on the biscuits my husband made for supper. And on one of those same biscuits the next morning. And, finally, straight off the spoon.

It was an exercise in listening to my body, which is not something I always do. My body has a primary nutritional demand (“Bring me cheese. All kinds of cheese. Great quantities of cheese.”) that I find best to listen to in the same way that parents listen to their two-year-olds. (“Yes, I hear what you are saying and I love you, but, no, you cannot shove your sister off the balcony and take all her toys.”) But, in this instance, the message was so clear, and the effect — the sudden boost of energy — so immediate, I felt the rightness of my body’s logic.

But let’s not talk about honey’s tonic effects. Let’s talk pleasure.

The snow is to the top of my hubcaps, and more is on the way. The world is indisputably beautiful: virgin white spaces barcoded in violet-blue, revealing a bit of history in the tracks of the small creatures who have traversed my yard. The breadth of possible optic sensation has been narrowed to the point where pattern recognition predominates — black trees outlined by snow, the pickets of the neighbor’s fence, the peace sign markings of avian footsteps at the feeder. It seems enough to occupy my visual cortex until a cardinal lands and flashes RED. I am sometimes startled in the same way when I see summer’s photographs and suddenly feel the visceral effect of primary colors.

That was the effect of the honey I was licking off the spoon. It was Southwark/Queen’s Village honey, by the way. (I have a range of supermarket honeys I use for a range of purposes, but it was this particular honey I craved when I got off the couch.) This amazing syrup was reduced from a vaguely grassy-tasting floral nectar by an extraordinary collective — thousands of honey bees repeatedly regurgitating and reingesting it until it was ready to be poured into wax storage cells. Even then, the effort wasn’t over. More bees fanned their wings across the open cells to further evaporate the water and increase the sugar content of the food that would keep the hive extant through winter.

What I wondered when it rolled across my taste buds was: Do they take pleasure in it, too? In the depth of winter, when they huddle in the hive and shiver themselves warm, is their fructose/glucose ration merely a quick hit of life-saving calories, or does something in their deepest ganglia remember summer flowers, too?

Sharron Cohen