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LFH-Beeboxes by the interstate catch a wanderer's eye. Photo by the author.jpg

Beeboxes by the interstate catch a wanderer's eye. Photo by the author

Early in State Fair, the only musical Rogers and Hammerstein wrote directly for the movies, a young woman leans out her bedroom window and sings, “I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm/ I’m as jumpy as a puppet on a string. I’d say that I have spring fever/ But I know it isn’t spring…” which is about what I feel like on this April day, with a piece of paper in each hand. In one hand, a certificate from an airline begs me to be bold, head out, become the plenipotentiary in my own life and see the world. In the other hand, a photo I took some time back whispers to me the words “Bee Odyssey,” which is about how my life actually feels: me, a small winged critter seeking pollen, hovering, dipping, buzzing about with nary a thunderbolt in sight, much less three in my powerful grip.  In fact, I am stuck by an open window noting the first cumulus of warmer weather, drawn to deep inhaling of daydreams of hither and yon, but “I feel so gay in a melancholy way” as the song says. That melancholy has rendered me inert, satisfied to muse and imagine but not actually lift my hand to project large or small, much less travel grand or local.

What brings Jupiter Rex, King of the Heavens, to my hand, you might ask, and it is like this:  In certain spring-stirred wistful moods, I open up a large wooden trunk that holds the artifacts of my ancestors and finger evidence of other decades and older life essences.  In 1956 my Uncle Willie flew to Japan as a well-paid oil engineer to help get a refining plant up and running.  In those days, world-crossing Pan American flights were still unusual enough that each passenger was treated to a certificate to prove they had crossed the Equator; yes, as if they were seamen on an ocean-exploring vessel, they were toasted and honored for their brave travel. I like thinking of my uncle seated high above the Pacific with rumbling radial engines transporting him, a lord of the sun, way out there in the middle of nowhere. The plane would land on Canton Island, a fuel stop near Kiribati to guzzle gas before going onward, onward, carrying Willie, who was quite a smart engineer, much respected for his trouble-shooting abilities, on to his mission in Japan.  A plenipotentiary in his field of refining crude oil into gasoline, he would dodge corporate CEOs to get right to quizzing the midnight dial watchers and hands-on guys with the wrenches to divine what needed tweaking to bring production into balance. A man on task with full powers. Sigh. I miss him. 

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jupiter rex

In the Fifties, Pan Am treated air passengers like royalty. Photo by the author

Meanwhile, I am the woman who stops by the road to take a photo of old honey bee hive boxes just because I like the wooden clarity of them, the pale paints peeling and the unexpected words stamped:  bee odyssey. Yes, it is some version of me, a bee seeking pollen, making deposits of honey for my queen. Hardly a plenipotentiary, though educated enough to savor an interesting multisyllabic word.  And in my full powers I have been an illimitable expert now and then. I know the locations of sycamore trees near gurgling pools, and where in each Arizona county there is a coffee shop that begs lingering, and which KOA on a cross USA drive features campsite delivery of excellent barbecue.  Strangers have considered me an authority on twins; just by having a twin sister, I would be asked, “What is it like?” and listened to as if I could speak for all twins everywhere, so potent was I.  I have also had my brain picked as a fire lookout—“Really, do they still have those?”—and as someone who has crossed the Atlantic on an ocean liner. “Did you sit on the deck with a rug over your knees?” I have been teacher at the front of a classroom, bookkeeper with penciled entries in balance on creme colored ledger pages and a marshal at polling places; yes, I’m the one who might ask you to turn your political t-shirt inside out before voting. But a king of the heavens? Not I…

Oh what to do with a heart that yearns, ambitions that blossom and wither, daydreams amassed on a warm spring day…

And now another tune arises; it is Greg Brown’s baritone voice murmuring a chorus:

“Love calls like the wild birds—It’s another day/ A spring wind blew my list of things to do…away.”    Not a day, then, to lean back majestically into billowing clouds, the firmament over my head twinkling with moon and stars.  Not a ruler will I be at this time. I see a roadrunner gurgling along the dirt road.  I’ll follow it a ways, maybe to pavement.  And if that nudges me to go into town to the farmer’s market so be it. I might find Whipstone Farm displaying a bucket of fragrant heirloom narcissus and think, “Where the bee sucks, there suck I…”  A day with songs in it and wanderings and a bit of Shakespeare remembered:  odyssey enough to make me supreme potentate of all things on the surface of the earth one more time.

Arizona-born Jean Rukkila is a retired fire lookout who writes from coffee houses, camp sites and libraries. See more of her writing at www.flagstaffletterfromhome.com.

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