exclamations as various bees ?y in and out of the garden (“Ooh!
Baby halictid!”). That’s the sort of engagement that Frankie
hopes more people will develop as they tend to their own gardens at home. “If somebody puts a name on a bee and tells you
a little bit about it, I think there’s a lot of aesthetic pleasure in
knowing that you’ve got a bee, and you can see it in your garden,” he says. “People want to have a story that goes with it, and
it’s our work to tell people what these stories are.”
Frankie and his team have taken their bee-awareness program into local elementary schools, giving presentations in
which the highlight is invariably the point at which kids learn
how to identify male bees and catch them with their hands.
Watching Frankie talk about how stingers work, it’s easy to
imagine him standing before a gaggle of eight year olds. “The
stinger is an egg-laying apparatus,” he says. “If [the females]
wanna lay an egg”—he makes a motion like he’s turning an
imaginary knob on the side of his head—“they turn on the
egg-laying thing. If they wanna send down venom to sting
somebody”—he dials the other way—“venom!”
When Frankie makes his four-day trips down the coast
and back, he frequently cruises neighborhoods to look for
promising gardens. In the town of Soquel, near Santa Cruz, he
happened across Kimberly Carter Gamble, who, acting on intuition alone, had assembled a menu of plants in her home garden
that was perfect for native bees. “I >rst saw this garden on a
foggy day, and I knew it was gonna be good,” Frankie says. “We
>nally had a chance to go out on a good day, and it was just
dynamite. It was just abuzz with bees.”
Gamble says both the ?owers and the bees have proven
tobe star garden-party attractions. “I had this tower-of-jewels
this year—it grows in a very blatant spiral as it opens up—
and I think there were sixty bees at a time,” she says. “It was a
particularly fun one, because the bees were so laden with the
pollen that they could hardly take o=.” This year, on Frankie’s
recommendation, Gamble is going to work linaria, coreopsis,
and bidens into her garden.
And so goes Frankie’s quest: braving the perils of the headbonkers and reeling in converts to the belief that a garden can
serve a bigger purpose than simply prettying a yard. Frankie says
that every time he makes a visit to someone’s garden, he learns
more about how to see the world as a bee does.
“You know when you walk into a restaurant and you can tell
within a matter of seconds whether or not it’s any good?” he says.
“Same thing with a garden: you walk in and you say, ‘Hup! They got
this, they got that. Let’s stay a while. Let’s see what happens.’” a
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Because We’ve Landed
on the Moon but Nobody
Wants to Live There
Someone’s got to stand at the door waving,
then busy up the empty house, clear the table, dishes,
her face. Someone’s got to wash away
that smear of relief and regret.
Someone has to keep the birds in check,
break a few speckled eggs, then cry
as if it were all a cruel mistake. Because the eggs
are ruined. Because we never get back
that feeling of lying in the grass, breathing in
the soft earth and the whole of summer before us.
We love celebration, the smell of fireworks,
but we work too long and forget to pick up milk.
We don’t notice or agree. And it’s too easy
to hit someone’s hand with a ruler. And a hundred times
is too many. We need to forge a different taste,
give it a name and shape,
then send an arrow through it. So we can hold
each other. So the phoebe can reuse its nest.
So the flowers can bloom. So the loyal dog
can travel half a continent and return home,
limping and proud. So conversation can be more
palatable than absence—like cotton candy—
sweet, and then nothing. Even so, it anchors us
when we think we might blow away.