apiculteur and abeilles beekeeper and bees (c) Kristin Espinasse


un apiculteur (aah pee kuul tuur) noun, masculine
    : beekeeper, apiarist

Example Sentence: (note: the sound file will be back soon... some technical difficulties today!)

Aujourd'hui on fait la connaissance de l'homme qui murmurait à l'oreille des abeilles. Today we meet the man who whispers to bees. 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"On Entertaining Angels"

It was the apiculteur, the beekeeper who arrived unannounced, or seemingly so (I would later learn that he and my husband had another one of those French arrangements whereby the one Frenchman had mentioned to the other that he would be by "dans la journée". Such are the specifics down south).

As the plans revealed themselves to me, there beneath the looming mulberry tree, I hunched over my lunch plate, as would a dog thrown a new bone: selfish-prone. I might have picked up my bone and moved it a dozen meters, over to the bush behind the clothesline, as Braise or Smokey might, but for a human snag called "manners". 

Seated with the harvesters at the picnic table, my nose now buried in a plate of charcuterie, I could not hide and so I tried, once again, to eradicate this stubborn sin: one of not letting others in.

I did my righteous repetitions...
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise. 

I did my many mea culpas...
Lord, forgive me!
Lord, forgive me!
Lord, forgive me! 

Until my husband, more of a hands-on type, came over and all but plucked me up by my evangelical ear:

Chérie, c'est l'apiculteur.

I stood up and nodded as only a dog with a bone in her mouth could: with an are you going to take it from me or may I keep it? stance. (Time and Space being my meaty bone.) 

Thankfully, our unexpected visitor was spared the war going on in "there": inside my heart I knew that a warm welcome was the only way. I could catch up on "alone time" at some point in the future. In Heaven, for example. If I ever make it there.

Bonjour, Monsieur! I managed a smile. I stood there now, in front of the picnic table, debating whether to invite the man to join us for lunch. It's almost one o'clock, he must be hungry.... or maybe he had eaten?  

I stood. And I stood.... And when Jean-Marc began chatting on about the harvest... I slipped away, right over to my plate, and shoveled down my lunch. The food was tasteless, as good as guilt.

Chérie, Jean-Marc said, as the apiculteur walked off, Monsieur is going to check the bee hive. Why don't you go and get your camera?

"And what about your camera?" I countered, returning to my conversation with harvester Lou. Soon, I slipped away from that too. I could not concentrate. I became a distant listener, my eyes scrambling over Lou's shoulders and up to the front gate to spy on the bee guy.


The apiculteur put on one of those bee "space suits". He wore the classic rattan hat with a slight brim. A net covered his gentle face (for he did have a gentle face, that much I saw). 


I watched him pry off the ruche-top, then stop to re-apply smoke to the area and so put the bees at peace (if not to sleep). Next, he began lifting out the honeycombed slides inside. 

bees and the beekeeper (c) Kristin Espinasse

I asked Lou to excuse me while I ran into the house in search of my camera. Arriving near the scene, one slow step at a time, I felt a strange calm. The apiculteur was carefully studying the slides which were half full with honey. He stared at his stinging subjects and their honey stores as if for the first time. He stared as Romeo to Juliet. He stared as Narcissus on seeing his own silhouette. It was love. Apiculteur amour.

honeycomb (c) Kristin Espinasse

The beekeeper gently set down one slide, returning it to the ruche, and picked up another. A cloud of bees surrounded him, some stinging his bare hands. With each piqûre he calmly reached down and plucked out the dard. Eventually he reached for his gloves, slowly pulling on the protective wear. His motions were as punctuated as peace: no stops, no goes, all movements came together in one even flow. Smooth as honey.

apiculteur or beekeeper and bees or abeilles (c) Kristin Espinasse

I gravitated toward this serene scene. Perhaps, I wondered, quiet as a honeybee I, too, might touch him... taking with me some of that calm and inner peace.

Post note: After experiencing the beekeeper's bonhomie, I could not get to the kitchen fast enough... in time to pile high a plate with the best our kitchen had to offer. It was simple fare but judging from the look on the beekeeper's face, it might have been the next best thing to honey.

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French Vocabulary
un apiculteur = bee keeper
dans la journée = sometime during the day
la charcuterie = cold cuts
Chérie, c'est l'apiculteur = Dear, the bee keeper's here 
Bonjour, Monsieur = Hello, sir
une ruche = beehive 
la piqûre = sting
le dard = dart 
bonhomie = good-heartedness  


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