Bees, Tombs, and Crumbling Graves

As I moved from one grave to another, my husband warned me to keep some distance from a tomb that was swarming with bees. By not getting too close to the vault, we were able to avoid the bees, and they ignored us.

I often bring my husband with me when I’m hunting for old graves.

Most of you know that when I’m not writing or painting, I enjoy hunting old, forgotten graves, tracking down slave graves, and exploring the countryside for abandoned barns and houses.

I recently made a post on Facebook asking my friends for tips on how to get close enough to take photos of a swarm of bees nesting in a tomb. I received much advice, but when I finally found time to read the posts, I’d already been to the bees. To give you some background about the post and my trip to the bees, I’ll give you some history.

Under a canopy of green

In June 2017, I went in search of an abandoned cemetery, practically forgotten, its location known by few, in a wooded area surrounded on three sides by a field. My brother-in-law, David Moore, of Ashburn, gave me directions to the place, and my husband and I set out to find it and some of my ancestors: William J. and Susan Royal Story.

The graves are crumbling and covered with dirt, leaves, branches, limbs.
Bees enter and exit the cracks in the vault.

In the vicinity David had sent us, we spotted a few headstones in the woods and knew we’d found our place. My husband parked the SUV on the side of a red dirt road, and I put on a long-sleeved shirt and hat. He did the same. Carrying walking sticks and my cell phone, we climbed over a ditch and traipsed out of the sun into a cool area shaded by the natural canopy of medium sized trees, limbs tangled among other limbs, leaves of one tree swaying among the leaves of neighboring trees, brush and small trees growing below larger trees, slivers of light from overhead shimmering on spider webs laced from one limb to another. We had discovered a peaceful burial place, a sanctuary created by both nature and man.

Bees swarming around the crack to the tomb. Many fly in and out.

As I moved from one grave to another, my husband warned me to keep some distance from a tomb that was swarming with bees. By not getting too close to the vault, we were able to avoid the bees, and they ignored us.

Doing what I love to do.

An hour or so later, as we were leaving hot and sticky with sweat, I was planning my return.

A few weeks ago I went back, taking my son with me, my Nikon camera, and a zoom lens. He and I jumped the ditch and sneaked beneath the canopy. I was surprised to see bees swarming in all directions, spreading out from the tomb. They appeared to have multiplied, and they had definitely invaded the place from one end to the other, the one safe area near the ditch we had jumped. Unprepared for such a massive number of bees, both of us wearing short sleeved shirts, with not a single hat between us, we knew we couldn’t get past the bees without upsetting them and getting stung. They seemed angry. Not wanting to linger, I took a few pictures of some headstones from a distance, and then we headed out.

And now for the events that happened yesterday, after I asked for advice on Facebook about dealing with the bees.

My husband and I returned to the cemetery. The bees that had been upset were calmer this time, flying in and out of the tomb, yet no longer swarming in a fury, no longer revealing their massive army. They remained near the vault. Making little noise, my husband and I were calm and didn’t disturb them. I was able to get close enough to snap some photos of the crack where they entered the tomb.

Before they day was over, I was in another area of the county taking photos of protected pitcher plants from the bog. But that’s another story.

The blog about the first time we explored the area is at Searching for William J. and Susan Royal Story.

Brenda Sutton Rose is the author of DOGWOOD BLUES. Her short fiction and poetry can be found in numerous online and print journals. She is presently writing her second novel.

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