The Myth of Perpetual Summer
pencil & charcoal on vellum + digital
This is my own personal myth (though not a literal illustration) – it’s, in part, a reference to my birth, my relationship with my family, to half remembered things from early childhood that have been built upon over the years as those memories invariably are. Childhood memories are mythic by their very nature. The snippets of what our adult selves would consider an insignificant event live huge and special and terrible and wonderful in that child-aged part in our minds. It’s partly also about the significance of bees, to myself, to summer memories marked by bee-stings earned by bare-feet on clover choked lawns, and to significance (and current crisis) of bees in the general world-sense. And finally, it is about the way time moves during summer–the accordion folding of one summer into another as one ages, tinged more and more with the the reluctant acceptance that, while long summer days seem to say otherwise, things end.
My family kept bees when I was very little. I have a snapshot memory of bee boxes tucked up against the blackberry bushes and the recollection of my parents telling my brother and I not to go near them, and the murky memory of their eventual demise under a cloud of mosquito fog, delivered by an errant crop duster. There is also a fragment of a story about my father bringing honeycomb into the hospital for the nurses when, after a difficult labour, I was delivered caesarian 7 days into summer.
I remember our last colony was described by my parents as aggressive, a description that was delightfully terrible to me. We also had an overly aggressive rooster and a ram that prompted the same warning – but those were animals that you could see, get close to through the fence. The bees were something that could only be heard from safe distance, or glimpsed as a moving, swirling, blurred cloud of traffic at the entrance to the hives. To be close enough to actually see them was to be in danger. Which is exactly what my 4 year-old self would do on the independent explorations of our farm I took each day. I’d cut a path as close to that mound of blackberry vines as I could, until the buzzing of the bees became loud enough to warn me off.
The rest of my memory of the bees has become deformed and slightly eroded over the years, built up a bit by stray mentions by my parents or grandparents but never solidly constructed through confirmation of the facts. I just never asked about them, or about much else that went on on the farm at the time. I’ve relied completely on my own memory of things. Maybe in an attempt to hold tight to those ephemeral memories, those perfect, filmic glimpses I have of growing up in a rural place that has now almost completely disappeared under the gaping maw of suburban sprawl. Or maybe because my family broke in half only a few years later and it felt odd to bring up stories that referenced us before the fracture.
But I’ve become more curious about my family at that time of my childhood. Probably because my parents were then the age I am now, and I am attempting to draw parallels and comparisons between our lives, map the differences and such. Figure out where I fit. Where I’m at. I don’t want to destroy the myth of my perfect-to-me slice of childhood, running wild through my family’s farmland, but I do want to know more now. I want to add my parents’ parts to my own narrative, fill out the story.