1999 had a lot going on, but most importantly, it was the year the honeybee, fuzzy little apis mellifera, was classified by Rudi Guiliani as an animal "naturally inclined to do harm," along with pit vipers and komodo dragons, and forbidden to be kept by anyone within city limits.
This past Wednesday, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (yes, Mental Hygiene... a whole other matter in itself...) held a public hearing to discuss City Council member David Yassky's bill to remove our buzzy buddy from the dreaded list included in Article 161 of the city's Health Code. This would make beekeeping legal in NYC as early as April. (Just in time for aspiring beekeepers to take the plunge!)
There were many honeybee supporters at the hearing, and not a naysayer in sight. Even the four members of the panel seemed pro-bee. (Or at least pro-local honey.) Arborists, activists, and bee lovers spoke passionately about the virtues of the honeybee. Of the bajillion points made about how rad bees are, the following ones stuck with me:
1. Most New Yorkers have heard of the Parks Department's Million Trees initiative, with its self-explanatory goal. (At this moment, they're at 315,678.) Said million trees begin their lives as million saplings outside city limits, where they're pollinated by million bees. Most of the initiative's trees are hardwood, a species that relies heavily on all kinds of bees for pollination. These trees need bees!
2. According to The Great Pollinator Project of 2009, bee watchers recorded a total of 226 species of bees in the city. 54 species were found in the Bronx, while 58 were found in Central Park alone, and 59 in Prospect Park! It's not like we live in a bee-free zone. The honeybee's illegality is arbitrary (226 species except apis mellifera??) and disadvantageous (no local honey, fewer flowers, less food grown within city limits, polluted air, etc.)
3. The legalization of beekeeping would create more "green jobs," including what one speaker referred to as "Bee Rangers" in public parks. Oh, how I'd love to be able to call myself a Bee Ranger! (Maybe I will, informally...)
4. Like so many New Yorkers, our trees are stressed out. The cure? You guessed it: BEES!
5. This past January 21, Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, a Philly native who discovered the concept of "bee space" and invented the hives in which my bees live, would have celebrated his 200th birthday. Happy Belated Birthday, Rev!
Since the public hearing was a seeming lovefest for bees, I'd say there's a pretty good chance this stupid law will be eradicated.
But Article 161 dictates the city's policies on all animals, and much more contentious than the bee code was the debate over carriage horses in the city's parks and streets, another piece up for reconsideration. Man, was that heated. A woman in the audience shouted "Shame on you!" during somebody's speech. Without going into detail, as I am unschooled in all things horses, I will say this: I do not think carriage horses should remain on 59th Street. Just two days before the hearing I was walking on Central Park South past all the horses, with their pastel-colored carriages equipped with blankets and drivers half-heartedly suggesting rides to suspected tourists, when I passed a beautiful white equine with a big, silly, blue feather sticking up above her head. The feather must have been intended to separate that particular horse from the rest, and served its purpose: the white horse looked even more miserable than the others, seemingly aware of her forced buffoonery. I felt the kind of shared embarrassment that one experiences watching unwitting participants on reality television, particularly the young children of abhorrent "characters" (or more aptly, "spectacles.") The blue-feathered horse reminded me of a scene in Follow That Bird in which Big Bird is captured, painted blue, and stuck in a cage at the circus. (I trust at least one of you will remember this reference.) Embarrassing costumes are the very least of the carriage horses' woes. For details on the horrible tragedies involving NYC carriage horses, and to support the ban on horse-drawn carriages in NYC, click here.
The final decision on bees will be made in March... come on, New York! We're practically the only city in the world to outlaw beekeeping! We want bees!
As far as holidays go, Thanksgiving is relatively virtuous.
Unsullied by the tempestuous filth and debauchery of Halloween and the crazy, crowd-crushing consumerism that infects the entire month of December, Thanksgiving's focus on turkey and family seems quaint.
We call Autumn "Fall" because we envision colorful leaves becoming brittle and either falling or being swept by wind to the ground. The temperature drops, the sun becomes elusive, the once-verdant leaves blush brilliantly in a grand finale before deciding to move on. They are just visitors here.
Really, though, these visitors are being pushed out the door, having overstayed their welcome at first flush. Just as honeybee colonies ruthlessly murder their big, dumb drones when summer ends, so too do trees shed their functional flourishes when they render themselves useless.
Without enough daylight to warrant the existence of leaves, those fanciful sunlight-eaters, trees are content to remain naked throughout the coldest months to conserve as much energy as possible. So it turns out that leaves, like drones, are simultaneously necessary and superflous elements to the existence of their respective wholes.
So it is December. Still Fall until the 21st, but December nonetheless, and December is filed under "Winter." But it has been so warm here in New York City that plants are slow to die.
Trees hesitate to expel their leaves. Delicate herbs are untouched by frost, and some confused trees are even mistakenly budding!
To me, the tragedy will be that much greater when Jack Frost does draw his icy sword and indiscriminately destroy all life, old and new.
The wise ones gave up the fight months ago and pass from this season to the next with grace and delicate beauty.
When will the magnolia tree notice the low sun?
She continues to bud in blissful ignorance of the winter sky.
The farm is still accepting field trips, but my worm dance ("munch munch, wiggle wiggle, poop poop, soil,") feels inhibited by bulky clothes and stiff, cold limbs.
Without his bro Marley, Bosco is like Elmo without Cookie Monster...
...or Big Bird.
In an attempt to survive what promises to be another devastating NYC winter, I have picked up my knitting needles and sought out warm, bold colors in soft, fuzzy yarn.
I've begun to fantasize about plump, furry sheep waddling around me. In my daydreams, while weaving their coats between my fingers, I grab a particularly adorable sheep by the haunches and give it a quick snuggle. I shear it deftly, and am magically transported to a wonderful wool-washing parlor, insulated on the ceilings with huge knitted maps. Then, a spinning wheel just like the one in Sleeping Beauty, but without the needle, suddenly appears. I play it like a harp and expel long tufts of fiber from my fingertips. Big wood buckets soak summer berries. I immerse the soft wool. Soon, I am knitting myself a burgundy-hued cocoon.
2009 is the Year of the Bee. Will 2010 be the Year of the Sheep?
Are there any people out there that raise sheep for wool? Any spinners? I feel that it might be time to learn a new homesteading trade, (seeing how I live in Manhattan and all,) and plus...
sheep are fuzzy, too.
*"Bosco-As-Elmo" photos were costumed, staged, and taken by my kid sis Dana, seen at the summit of "Don't-Eat-The-Berry-Mountain," above.