“Just five minutes,” Gemmy told herself. It was an oft-repeated promise; it really meant ten or fifteen minutes. Just a few minutes to close her eyes and lose herself — this time in the bath of birdsong. Just a few minutes and then she’d swallow the last of the coffee, pull back onto the interstate, head to her office and dig into the waiting slew of unanswered emails.
“Ma’am! Ma’am! Are you OK?”
The highway patrolwoman standing next to her car and shaking her shoulder woke Gemmy up from the beginnings of a dream of talking bees in a field of singing thistles and grumbling chickory. She jerked herself the rest of the way awake — sleep was a delicious drug, Morpheus was a jealous God, and surfacing again into wakefulness actually hurt — and said, “Sorry, Officer. Fine, I’m fine. Just shut my eyes for a moment.”
“You shouldn’t drive if you’re about to fall asleep. And this is not a very safe spot for you to sleep with your windows opens,” the young woman chided.
“Thank you. I’m sorry. I’m OK now. Really. Just heading into work early. I’m OK.”
Gemmy felt oddly chagrined as she pulled into her parking spot at the lab, although she couldn’t think what, exactly, caused the feeling. She’d been OK. The patrolwoman was just doing her job. Everything was fine. What was this odd unease she’d felt the last few miles to her job?
The lab’s coffee pot was empty, as usual at this time of morning. Gemmy, often the first one into the office, didn’t mind making the first pot. The simple ritual of cleaning the pieces, pouring in the heaven-scented grounds, and adding cold water had an almost calming effect and the cheerful sound of the pot as it began to brew settled her as she stood in front of her monitor.
First screen was always a satellite map of bee populations all over the globe — waking as the sun rose over the horizon, heading out to Chinese poppy fields, Swiss meadows, English hedgerows, American corn, Australian orchards, odd suburban patches of daisies and begonias. On the other side of the map, swarms returned home, settled down for the night, deposited their day’s work in commercial hives and small forest nests. Gemmy’s practiced eyes scanned the data, approved of all they saw, and noticed how this late American summer was keeping some populations active past their normal date.
Second screen was weather patterns — screwy as usual these days. “There is no such thing as ‘normal’ weather,” Gemmy always told her undergrad classes. “Not when the Global Climate Crisis has commenced. We don’t know what to expect and we likely won’t in your lifetimes. Get used to not being used to it.” But Gemmy’s eyes narrowed on a storm forming in the Indian Ocean and headed for landfall near a particularly vulnerable new set of bee populations. All of a sudden, that odd feeling of dread coalesced in the pit of her stomach and Gemmy understood why she’d needed to get in so early this morning.
“Seth,” she yelled into her cell phone. “Seth, get up and get into the field now! Get your workers! A storm is coming to wipe out the hives. Save as many as you can! Seth! Wake up!”
Picture found here.