A swarm left one of the beehives today and settled high in a nearby pine tree. No chance to retrieve this one and put it in a hive next to its mother hive. It felt fitting. This swarm’s bid for absolute freedom.

Late August these last few years has meant the departure of various children to new ventures away from the farm. The last week in August this year we’ll have our largest exodus yet, when Emily leaves for her first year of college, Lizzy moves into a faculty apartment at the Putney School and Ben settles back into his faculty apartment in a dorm at Kimball Union.

As William is quick to note, this means only one child at home to do the dishes AND feed the dogs AND set the table AND do all the chores that once were divided among four sets of hands.

To prepare for new jobs and new school years, everyone but me has gone off on last minute adventures. The three older children went to NYC for some serious shopping, Jim went to Connecticut for an end of summer visit with his mom and William has gone off on a thirty six hour fried dough junket at the local Cornish Fair. Yes, there is supposed to be some showing of cows in there, but when you are twelve, its really all about the punishing rides and fried dough.

Anyways, these temporary departures leave me and the swarm and the cats and dogs in a quiet emptiness that has been rare this busy summer. All of us testing the waters of what lies ahead.

When a swarm leaves a hive, it goes to a temporary location while bee scouts are sent out from the swarm to find possible locations for their new home. These scouts report back possibilities to the swarm and then the swarm actually votes which possible location it wants the hive to move to.

When a swarm lifts off for its new home, it is a sight to behold. The swarm rises up about fifty feet into the air. Then this swirling mass of bees starts to move so fast that even as I have occasionally tried to run after a swarm to see where it is going, I have never been able to keep up with its speedy departure.

Eventually, sometime in the next day or so, this swarm will vote and go. I have been watching the remaining hives today, trying to sense which hive emptied out some of its members. Are the bees inside one of these hives like William, feeling the pain of fewer hands to wash the dishes/collect the nectar? Is the Queen bee who remains feeling glad for the space or bereft or maybe a little bit of both?

I have no idea what it will feel like this fall when the troops roll and just me, Jim, and William remain here. Our hive will probably be tidier, quieter, and William won’t have nearly as many dishes to wash as he thinks because the main dish generators will have left the building.

I am ready for less domestic engineering. I won’t mind a little bit less clutter, fewer meals to cook for the masses and a mudroom census of less than forty five pairs of running shoes, cleats, flip flops, and boots. While I am happy that each departing child is about to experience new community, new adventures, and an expansion of their lives into hives of their own, I am also delighted at the prospect of stretching my own wings in new directions. Unhitched from some of my domestic duties, I expect to discover hidden combs in this hive of mine.

Yet, I am still me. This means I will be glad that unlike swarms that depart once and for all, departing children seem to choose to return to the mothership hive for visits. And you know what? I bet when this happens, even William will be glad to see the dishes pile up.

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