Molly Fisk: An Apiary Has Nothing to Do with Apes

2950355046_8ff16f2544_zPhoto by su-lin via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

One of the things I’m good at is linking people together. Not match-making, although two couples have married who fell in love during my poetry class. Usually it’s more practical: This person needs a plumber and that person is a plumber. Or an electrician, a chef, a child-care provider, a psychiatrist, a u-pick blueberry farm entrepreneur. I cannot tell you anything about Chinese history or the fallacies of logic. If you want to know what Fibonacci numbers are, you’re on your own. But if you need someone to trade you a massage for homemade sauerkraut, get out a pen and I’ll give you her number.

Which is why, sitting here in my favorite cafe, I’m staring at an enormous jar of honey. A few months ago a friend of a friend was asking around about where he might put some of his beehives. I volunteered my back yard, wanting to support the troubled bee population, but he had someone else near enough to me that the hives would get mixed together, something a bee-keeper doesn’t want. So I looked at the map in my head and suggested three other places that might work. He called those people, and indeed, all of them will be hosting his hives this spring. Sometime later I saw him on the street and we talked for a minute. He was looking for a spot in a particular area, and I knew someone who lived there. Voila! We think that one’s going to work, too.

You know how it is when something is easy for us to do, we kind of assume it’s easy for everyone else, too? That turns out to be false. Not everyone has a map in their head, or remembers that Dave’s growing blueberries, Mike’s got 20 acres, and Talei, the herbal-gardening guru, just moved to a new place off McCourtney Rd. Not everyone listens when people ask questions, or remembers them two weeks later.

I admit these skills may come from a long life of butting my nose into everyone’s business. But just to practice some self-compassion, let’s say there’s another reason. Abstractions don’t hold my attention. I don’t care about logic, fallacious or valid. I care about people. Their stories, where they live, who they love, what they’re up to. I’m fascinated by how different we all are and at the same time, how similar. Plus, as a kid I was really good at Concentration, the game where you scatter a deck of cards face down all over the floor and see who’s best at picking up two of a kind.

In another life I might have been buying spices in Mumbai to sell to the King of Spain’s head baker. But in this one I’m a poet, perched on a stool at a coffee shop counter. I use my skills for fun, and to grease the wheels of community. I get paid back in smiles.

And sometimes in great big jars of thick, gold, local, late-season manzanita honey.


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  • Susanna Gaertner October 19, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    I love to do this as well! Call us the fascinating facilitators.