To be completely honest (am I ever anything else on here? lol), I didn't really want to make the long drive out to this older gentleman's house to do the interview. I sort of wished I'd set it up as a phone interview. In fact, I tried to find a different person to interview but it didn't work out.
So, I climbed into my car on Tuesday, grumbling slightly, but I decided to put on some praise music and try to just enjoy the ride.
I drove out into the country, past rolling fields that were just losing that dead, winter look and beginning to show that tender green color that signals spring. There is just a certain color of green you only see in the spring. In the summer, the greens get darker and cooler, but in the spring, the green looks new and fresh.
With the man's good directions, I pulled up his driveway right on time. As my tires crunched up the gravel, I felt like I had stepped back in time about 50 years. A man in a neat flannel shirt and worn but crisp jeans stood on the small, cement porch that backed up into a square, two-storied white clapboard farm house. A dog barked out back.
The man I was to interview stood on the porch, waving to me. He had a balding head and a beard, and he smelled faintly of tobacco. He ushered me through his kitchen and into his dining room. Instead of chairs, two long benches were pushed to the sides of his dining room table.
I rather ungracefully climbed on the bench, set down my recorder and notebook and prepared for the interview. But my interviewee had other ideas.
He picked up a snapshot in a gold frame. The couple in the picture were obviously he and his wife. She was wearing one of those "grandma" type sweatshirts - you know, the ones with the cute animals or sayings on them usually in pastel colors. She had her arm around his waist and both of them looked happy.
"This is my sweetheart," he said. He cradled the picture in his hands. He wore a faint smile on his face, but his eyes seemed a bit sad. "She went home to be with the Lord last Mother's Day." He continued to look at the picture and gave it a sort of pat as he put it back on the sideboard. You could tell, she really WAS his sweetheart.
Then he walked over to a wall of 9 pictures, neatly hung in rows of three. "These are my kids," he said. He pointed to each picture, telling me the names, occupations and where each had settled. Two had died - one in an accident and one in the service in Afghanistan. He was a pilot.
Finally, we sat at his table and he talked to me about beekeeping - the reason for the interview. During the interview, he would pop up and go get a book or a picture to illustrate what he was saying. Halfway through the interview, he asked me if I liked honey. When I said yes, he disappeared into the kitchen only to come back with a mason jar full of amber liquid.
A shaft of sunlight came through the window and illuminated the honey. The moment felt special somehow.
The photographer came just as I was winding up the interview. My intention was to get back in my car and drive home, but the man invited me to come see his hives. It WAS why I was there, so we all climbed into the photographer's car and drove around through a lane - I say lane but it was really just grass.
The man had us drive along his pond and he pointed out a nesting goose. She was tucked against the bank. I would have never seen her if he hadn't shown us. He told us about the beavers that were trying to set up house on his pond and dam it up.
I shivered in the wind and pulled my sweater tighter around me as he pointed out the various components of the beehives. He even pulled out a frame or two to reveal several bees milling around.
Back by the house, he showed us his barn and the various beekeeping equipment he kept back there.
The house, the barn, the fields - everything seemed peaceful and real life seemed a million miles away. As I pulled away, he stood on his porch - waving.
It made me a little sad when I pulled away because he seemed a little lonely - his wife gone and most of his children far away. It made me thankful for my family all close by - alive and well. That's a gift I often take for granted.
When I got home, I set my jar of honey on the counter by the phone. Every time I look at it, it reminds me that peaceful farm and that half smile the old man gave when he talked about his sweetheart. I remember to say a prayer of thanks for my family.