An inspiring, up-close portrait of tending to a honeybee hive—a year of living dangerously—watching and capturing the wondrous, complex universe of honeybees and learning an altogether different way of being in the world.
"As strange, beautiful, and unexpected, as precise and exquisite in its movings as bees in a hive. I loved it."--Helen Macdonald, author of H Is for Hawk
A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings begins as the author is entering her thirties and feeling disconnected in her life. Uneasy about her future and struggling to settle into her new house in Oxford with its own small garden, she is brought back to a time of accompanying a friend in London—a beekeeper—on his hive visits. And as a gesture of good fortune for her new life, she is given a colony of honeybees. According to folklore, a colony, freely given, brings good luck, and Helen Jules embarks on a rewarding, perilous journey of becoming a beekeeper.
Jukes writes about what it means to “keep” wild creatures; on how to live alongside beings whose laws and logic are so different from our own . . . She delves into the history of beekeeping and writes about discovering the ancient, haunting, sometimes disturbing relationship between keeper and bee, human and wild thing.
A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings is a book of observation, of the irrepressible wildness of these fascinating creatures, of the ways they seem to evade our categories each time we attempt to define them. Are they wild or domestic? Individual or collective? Is honey an animal product or is it plant-based? As the author’s colony grows, the questions that have, at first compelled her interest to fade away, and the inbetweenness, the unsettledness of honeybees call for a different kind of questioning, of consideration.
A subtle yet urgent mediation on uncertainty and hope, on solitude and friendship, on feelings of restlessness and on home; on how we might better know ourselves. A book that shows us how to be alert to the large and small creatures that flit between and among us and that urge us to learn from this vital force so necessary to be continuation of life on planet Earth.
In this evocative debut, Oxford writing tutor Jukes traces her interest in beekeeping and how it changed her life. Her involvement begins when, while living in London, she helps out an urban beekeeper friend. The hobby "felt like slipping through a hidden side door, stepping slightly outside the flow of things." Shortly after moving to Oxford to work at a charity, Jukes scouts locations for her own hive, "checking for , wind exposure, the damp. I glance up to where the trees won't shadow ." She wrestles with herself over making the commitment, uncertain of her skills: "What if the bees die or swarm away...? What if I can't keep them?" But she perseveres, and finds beekeeping a fruitful diversion from her sometimes stressful job. In an affecting subplot, Jukes describes a budding relationship with a male friend in London, candidly revealing their tentative steps toward romance. She also goes into the science and methodology behind beekeeping without losing her audience, revealing salient details of how one builds a hive and acquires the honeycombs. Readers will appreciate the candor and inviting openness of Jukes's voice throughout this winning memoir.