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Shivering Our Wings

Six months have passed since we last spoke through The Beehive. Well into the summer of 2020 it became obvious that the Covid-19 pandemic was changing our habits, our interactions, our daily life. With no immediate end in sight, we were given time – time for reflection, consideration, self-evaluation.

Since this is The Beehive you know I will make an analogy between our lived experience and that of the honeybee. You may have wondered where bees go in winter. During the summer our gardens are filled with worker bees, foraging well into the fall bringing food reserves to the hive to last the winter. When the temperatures drop, the honeybees huddle together in a cluster and shiver their wings. This shivering brings warmth to the hive and ultimately keeps the queen warm so the colony can survive.

It feels to me like we have spent these past six months huddled together in our own ‘cluster’ shivering our wings. And we will survive.

Today is March 4th and so, let’s do that – in our minds and in our hearts. Let us march forth with hope into a new year, a year of science, a year of vaccines, a year of anticipation for when we can safely and freely be together outside our individual hives.

Some years ago, my aunt Iva Pastorius sent me a poem by Canadian poet, Edna Jaques. During her lifetime Edna Jaques, (1891-1978) was well known in Canada as a lecturer, author, and poet. Her best-known poem, In Flanders Now, was read at the unveiling of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C. and then placed in the chapel at Arlington Cemetery.

A 1952 article in Maclean’s Magazine declared, “What Robert Burns was to Scotland… Edna Jaques is to Canada . . . the voice of the people.” Obviously, she was a favourite of my aunt.

The Federation of Women's Institutes of Canada

Today I am sharing only one poem by Edna Jaques but please look for others. In her work she is known to celebrate the daily experiences of domestic life and perhaps a small celebration of daily life is what we need right now.

My Ancestors by Edna Jaques

I do not know their pedigree, their breeding or their worth, But this I know they gave to me the love of common earth. The smell of furrows brown and wet, the love of sun and rain, Their gardens sweet with mignonette, will live in me again.

And someone nurtured by the sea, who loved her wind and spray, Passed down across the years to me the joy that’s mine today. For I can smell the salty breath when quiet tides are low, Because some person living there had loved it long ago.

Because some unremembered soul was glad of firelight, I am content with little rooms that shut me in from night. And when I hear the dawn come up all stormy from the sea, A thankful fisherman at dawn is glad again in me.

For songs that beat against my heart from some dim fountain fed, Were hers before she went to live among the quiet dead. And crops that ripen in the sun their gold and gracious yields, Are some dim father’s of the race who tended little fields.

And so this blood and soul of me are just a living link, That’s welded in the race of men who live and move and think. And all that’s fine and good and clean – the substance and the sum, Are part of all who went before, the seed of all who come.

When my aunt sent this poem to me, she wrote, “There is a theory that we can possess inherited memory. When I read this, I can almost feel these long-ago people of my line.”


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