Category Archives: Just Stories

sunflowers

Bees Bees and More Bees

If you’re squeamish about being near bees, or happen to be one of the unlucky few that are allergic to the sting of bees, then I don’t recommend that you try photographing them the way I do.

I could have got out my DSLR and long lens and stood a respectable 10 feet away and there’s a chance I would have got similar results.

But where’s the fun in that.

Instead, I got out my point and shoot that has respectable macro capabilities and took pictures of bees from 2 to 6 inches away.

Some say it’s stupid, which is a possibility, but I like to think it’s a learned skill.

When I was 12 I had my first run in with bees. I was rummaging around a big weed choked lot across the street from Midway Airport. We used to call these lots prairies. When you grow up in the city, this is the closest you get to something big, open and wild. Even though they’re really not all that big, they are to a 12 year old.

I was wandering around the prairie when I came across some big bumblebees that were going in and out of a hole in the ground. I didn’t know bees lived in underground hives, why would I, so I stood watching, fascinated.

Then, like any red blooded American boy, I went and got a stick and started poking around the hole. The bees still came and went, oblivious to me.

So, I jammed the stick a good foot into the hole and moved it around. When I pulled it out it was followed by a steady swarm of big bumblebees, only this time I could hear them buzzing in anger. I did what any red blooded American boy would do at that point and ran like hell.

I got about 50 feet away, what I thought would be a safe distance, stopped and turned around. A big bumblebee made a beeline straight at me, where I learned where the term beeline comes from, and hit me hard in the chest, stinging me.

I don’t remember pain as much as feeling like someone stuck a lit cigarette in my chest, more of a burn. Within a minute the spot where I was stung began to swell. Within two minutes it looked like someone had slipped a golf ball under my skin. I had been in the Boy Scouts for a year at that point and had already learned some first aid. I went home, mixed up some oddball paste concoction and smeared it all over and around the golf ball in my chest. Have no clue if that helped, but I don’t remember the golf ball being there that long.

I did learn a lesson then and over the years to come.

Bees are like men. There are tasks to accomplish and work to be done and as long as you leave them alone, don’t get in there way or stop them, they’ll ignore you and go about their business.

On the sunflowers this day there were also a few wasps. You’ll notice there are no photos of them. I learned a lesson about wasps too over the years.

Wasps are like women. There are tasks to accomplish and work to be done, but it doesn’t matter if you stay out of their way or try to stop them. At some point they’ll turn on you like a rabid dog, for no reason. Next thing you know you’re running trying to get away from them and they continue to pursue you relentlessly. You find yourself begging them to leave you alone and cowering in a corner mumbling, don’t hurt me.

So, where was I…

Well, anyway, I get a kick out of seeing how close I can get to bees and how close I let them get to me. I’ve left them alone as they’ve landed on my Hawaiian shirts to check me out. They soon figure out they’ve been fooled and simply leave.

I knew these bees were here for the pollen. I could see it collecting on their legs and all over their bodies. What I didn’t notice till I looked at the pictures was how much pollen was all over the sunflowers. There are a few shots of pollen on some surrounding leaves, pollen that had fallen off. Never did see that with the naked eye.

One thing I would like to do some day is have a few honey bee hives. Not only would this be good for the bees and good for the plants in the area, I would get to reap the harvest of honey. The cost of honey has risen dramatically the last few years as the honey bee population has dwindled. I hunt the stores looking for bargains to feed my need for honey. The wife looks on with disdain as I open a container of honey and dip a spoon into it, then suck off all that golden goodness.

Much better than candy. Much better for you.

The other day I thought I struck a honey gold mine. A never before seen brand of honey, two 5 pound containers of it, sitting on a shelf and at a decent price.

Of course, I had to buy it all.

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Farnsworth House

In April of 2001, when the state of Illinois was considering the purchase of the Farnsworth House and the 62 acres of land it sits on along the Fox River, I wrote a letter and sent it to damn near everyone I knew at the time that had anything to do with conservation, along with sending it to the Letters sections of all the papers.

I knew that in 1996, when the Fox had a 100 year flood event, it inundated the Farnsworth House and it cost $250K to restore it. As the infamous WGN radio host Spike O’Dell said at the time of the 1996 floods… “What did you think was going to happen when you paved everything over, water’s gotta go somewhere.”

I had studied architecture and knew all about Mies and the historic significance of the house, why it was built the way it is and why it’s located where it is… and none of that mattered to me.

Apparently I made that quite clear in part of the letter I wrote back then.

Common sense dictates that you don’t build homes in floodplains.

I think the emphasis on why the State of Illinois should purchase the Farnsworth property needs to be reevaluated. The purchase of the house would include 62 acres of land that borders the Fox River. The land alone, with or without the inclusion of the house, should be purchased by the state.
The Farnsworth property is next to, and across the river from, Silver Springs State Park. Adding the 62 acres to Silver Springs would protect a beautiful stretch of the Fox River from development, and guarantee public access to a body of water that is quickly becoming surrounded by private property.
As for the house, if it is included in the purchase, it should be moved further back on the floodplain. I don’t think moving it will have any effect on its architectural integrity. In the long run, the move will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair bills as the house will no longer get damaged by floods.

The picture at the top of this post is from April of 2013, never did bother looking into what it cost to repair it that time. I know there was another high water event just a few years earlier. Those pesky 100 year high water events decided to almost become a regular feature of the river.

I distinctly recall having a conversation about this back then and suggested moving the house to the edge of the cornfield up the hill to the north and east of where it now sits.

Flash forward 14 years to an article that was in the Tribune’s Beacon News on June 19, 2015:

Trust considers moving Mies van der Rohe home on the Fox River

One of the three options being considered is what I suggested 14 years ago.

Ultimately this has nothing to do with the Farnsworth House, the legacy of Mies van der Rohe or whether or not you like glass and steel buildings. I think the world could do just fine with a little less glass and steel.

For me it became a revelation as to why I get bored and disinterested with “issues” so quickly. I have no clue why my brain draws conclusions as quickly as it does, but for many years I’ve felt compelled to share these conclusions with others only to have them met with disinterest and ridicule.

Which is why I now consciously avoid saying much of anything regarding issues.

Yet here it is 14 years and at least two damaging flood events later, someone came up with the brilliant idea that maybe this building should be moved out of the way some how.

Well, there’s a novel idea.

Maybe by the time it gets out of committee and I happen to live to be 90, I’ll see it happen.

But I’m not banking on it.

In the mean time I think an opportunity is being missed.

I hear that on a nice, bright, sunny day the Farnsworth House turns into the world’s largest convection oven.

Imagine the cook offs that could be done.

Maybe this is what Mies intended for the Farnsworth House all along.

Did a Death March

Did a death march on a creek on Saturday to see if that’s what was needed to keep from getting bored with fishing.

Almost worked.

Took a left where I thought I was supposed to take a left, but that was a year ago. Left was gone and now it was a stumble down a long hill, through two swamps, careening off trees, bumping my head on low branches, tripping over logs buried in chest high grass and finally arriving at the creek.

Later I would see two deer playing catch me if you can and running through the woods at an unbelievable pace. 150 feet up stream, the same stream I just stumbled down while twisting ankles, they came leaping out of the woods, into the creek, flew across it and disappeared on the other side.

I believe I said loud enough for them to hear me… fuck you.

Well, anyway, back at the creek arrival, now sweating profusely, figured I may as well empty the bladder and refill it with some fresh water. Standing there, patiently, I look down and see what’s below off to the side, a single ray of light through dense trees highlighting it perfectly.

As if it was asking to be found.

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The scenery was stunning, the wading brutal, caught 7 smallies which is pathetic and decided to go home afterward rather than try another spot.

Like I said, almost worked.