Bees in the City

Two days ago, I was doing a phone consultation with a writer who, among other things, was writing about bees. When I looked up from my notes, what did I see in our yard? A huge swarm of hundreds of…bees. I’ve never seen such a thing. It was strangely beautiful.

As I continued my consultation, the swarm lessened and eventually seemed to be down to a few dozen bees circling like electrons around an overgrown rhododendron. When I got off the phone, I went out to look closer and saw what is in the picture here: an upside down bee cone. It was two feet tall and just as wide at its widest part.

Fortunately, our neighbor used to have beehives and had the right equipment, as well as the desire to have one again. So last night he came and dropped the cone into a garbage bin and took the squirming mass off to put in one of his old bee boxes.

He missed a few, but over the past two days they’ve disappeared, so maybe they’re all together now.

Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in whose works the kind of coincidence in my first paragraph here happens all the time. Maybe more is at work in our world than we know.

Here a picture of the bees’ new home:


“Love in the Time of Cholera,” in the Time of Coronavirus

© Michael N. McGregor

I started reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera yesterday, as every writer should at some point during a pandemic. It is so beautifully rich in language and poignant and, what I didn’t expect, funny. Here are two lines from early in the book I thought especially evocative:

“In summer an invisible dust as harsh as red-hot chalk was blown into even the best-protected corners of the imagination by mad winds that took the roofs off the houses and carried away children through the air.”


“At nightfall, at the oppressive moment of transition, a storm of carnivorous mosquitoes rose out of the swamps, and a tender breath of human shit, warm and sad, stirred the certainty of death in the depths of one’s soul.”


To Take What Is, In Both Hands

Sculpture by Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943)
photograph: © Michael N. McGregor

I keep a copy of this poem/reflection by my writing desk. It seems more important now than ever (an English translation follows the German):

Zu Lebzeiten

by Jochen Mariss

Laß uns wieder lernen,
den Augenblick zu genießen,
zu nehmen, was ist,
mit beiden Händen,
hier und jetzt zu leben,
bevor wir das Leben verbracht haben
mit sorgenvollen Blicken in die Zukunft
und den Erinnerungen an die gute alte Zeit.

In Life

by Jochen Mariss

Let us learn again
to enjoy the moment,
to take what is
in both hands,
to live here and now,
before we have spent our life
in anxious glances toward the future
and memories of the good old times.

p.s. The photograph here is from Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway, and dedicated to those who are self-isolating with children. 🙃

On TV: A Shot of John Belushi and Me in Our Only Movie Together

I went to the Stanford-Oregon game on Saturday night, which was broadcast nationally, and jokingly told a friend to look for me on TV, not knowing a picture of me had already appeared on that morning’s ESPN College GameDay. They showed a short video about “Animal House” that included this still. That’s me (in the center) and my college buddy Brad McCuaig behind John Belushi.

The movie was shot on the University of Oregon campus in the fall of 1977 when I was just beginning my sophomore year there.  All you had to do to be in it was get a haircut, they said, so I lined up with the others and had my head shorn.  Then I worked as an extra for a week, meeting Belushi and the movie’s other future stars and playing fussball with Karen Allen once.  After a week, though, the standing around was too boring and I didn’t want to miss any more classes, so my time as a film actor ended.

No one had any idea, of course–not even the director, John Landis–that the movie would go on to be one of the most iconic comedies of all time.  I remember a quote from Landis saying that the movie might do only modestly well but it would make stars of its young actors.  He was wrong on the first point but prescient on the second.  The young and mostly unknown actors in the movie who went on to big careers included Belushi, Allen, Kevin Bacon, Tom Hulce, and Peter Riegert.  In the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, my Bacon Number is 1.