Stored honey

It's a lot of work to store away a bit of sweetness. Monticello, July 2014

It’s a lot of work to store away a bit of sweetness. Monticello, Virginia July 2014

“Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail.” 
Theodore Dreiser

Until I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2010, I used to put lots of honey in my tea each morning.  I’ve always loved honey.  It amazes me how hard the bees have to work to make it.  Sometimes when I was young, Mama would buy honey with the comb still in it as a special treat for me, and I would chew it as if it was chewing gum.

I think Dreiser makes a good analogy between art and honey.  It seems to me that most if not all great art comes out of adversity and sorrow.  And it’s painstakingly created, even when the skill of the artist makes it seem otherwise.

Think of the lovely plein air paintings of the impressionists; they must have been difficult to create in an outdoor setting, despite the wonderful light and inspiration.  I bet that all sorts of pollen, debris and other airborne particles would get stuck in the paint.  And imagine the frustration of getting your easel and equipment set up, only to have a storm blow in just as you are getting started!

We spread honey on our toast in the morning without giving it much thought, just as we stroll past great works in a gallery and seldom reflect that we are seeing the cumulative result of countless hours of execution, to say nothing of the lifelong practice and mistakes that came before, building the mastery that left this legacy for us to enjoy.

In the same way, we may overlook the art all around us in our everyday life, offerings of love from people who manage to create beauty out of misery and travail.  I hope today you’ll be able to taste the sweetness of honey from human souls, stored to help us through the tough times.

One year ago today:

An art of balance


  1. I recall seeing Michelangelo’s sculpture, “The Pieta.” when at the 1965 World’s Fair in N.Y.
    I was 15 then, and only, truly came to appreciate his gift and sufferings for it, When I read Stone’s “The Agony And The Ecstacy.”

    • Alan, I really need to read that book. I believe our son read it when he was young and it seemed to make a real impression on him. I have Irving Stone’s biography of Pissarro (Depths of Glory) but I haven’t read it yet.

  2. Yummy…honey. My favorite is hot biscuits with butter and honey.

    • by the way…lovely picture. 🙂

      • Thank you! I had a hard time getting the bee to stay still long enough for the camera. “You tourists!” he kept saying in exasperation.

    • You and Jeff both. He loves to mix molasses and butter for biscuits too. I like pure honey – just the sugar with no fat! 😀

      • MaryAnn

        My brother passed down a treat to my husband: Mom would mix honey, butter & peanut butter to spread on bread, toast & of course biscuits! I do not care for honey, so I did not share in their enthusiasm.
        I did not know about your diabetes. YIKES!
        Your photographer’s eye caught a beauty in this bee & flower! Thanks for sharing your wonderful talent/passion with us!

        • Mary Ann, I have pretty much reversed my type II diabetes, at least for now. I know that’s a controversial thing to say but my current primary care doc pretty well agrees with me that I no longer have it. It was caught early (a routine test when I went in for appendectomy) and my numbers were relatively low, though high enough to be well over the limits for diagnosis of diabetes (not pre-diabetes as some have been diagnosed). I made some pretty radical changes to my diet and asked my doc not to put me on meds unless my dietary changes failed. I also continued the exercise and started taking supplements. For two years now all my A1C tests have been in the normal range, I praise God for that! I have a strong family history of diabetes (both kinds) but I read this book which was very helpful in explaining insulin resistance. I was also sent to nutritional counseling as soon as I was diagnosed. I’m so happy I was able to avoid medication, at least so far. I’ve been told it may get worse as I get older so they still watch me closely for it.

          One of my favorite treats while I was in college was to mix peanut butter with honey and protein powder and sometimes granola or other cereal, and make snack candy. I wish I could still get by with doing that! I just don’t need the sugar OR the calories anymore, but it was a fun and relatively healthy treat when I was younger. PB and honey are great together. I’m glad your Mom knew about it too!

          • MaryAnn

            Praising God right beside you for the diabetes to be at bay! Your ability to dive in & gather the knowledge necessary has always been a strong part of your personality.
            Good job!!!

            • Thank you, Mary Ann. The credit for the info gathering in this case goes to my “hippie” (just kidding, sort of) mother who sent me the book and coached me on the dietary changes I needed to make. I have learned never to laugh off her advice as I sometimes did when I was younger and knew it all. 😀

  3. Larry

    The variegated flowers draw your eye to the beautiful colors but the magic is in the bee drawing the nectar without disturbing the flower. Unknown to the bee is his work of cross pollination with other flowers. There is beauty intrigued with magic everywhere we look whether we recognize it or not. King Solomon said in Proverbs 24:13 “eat honey, for it is good,and the droppings of the honeycomb are pleasant to the taste. So are knowledge and wisdom to your mind.” If we could only see all the benefits in honey, People suffering allergies are told to get local honey to help build up immunity.

    • Larry, I had forgotten that about eating local honey for allergies but now that you mention it I think I heard or read that same thing. I love the Bible story about Jonathan and the honey. Those of us who love sugar can well imagine how it could “brighten the eyes!” 😀

  4. Julia, I enjoyed the beautiful photo, perfect quote to accompany it, and the various comments. It’s very fitting for this lovely Sunday morning. 🙂 Blessings to you and yours, Sheila

    • Thank you Sheila! This has been a lovely Sunday indeed – sunny but cool enough to be comfortable. Do I feel a bit of fall coming on? 😀 Hope your Sunday was beautiful too. Thanks for being here with us.

  5. raynard

    Julia is it just me or I never understood why” people collect extra packets of stuff ie honey from KFC and places like that.( I see it in my” aunt’s junk drawer this morning and my wife has the same habit

    • Raynard, I plead guilty to that! Although I’ve pretty much quit doing it. I used to keep a packet or two in my purse to use in tea if I was in a place that didn’t have any. I would do the same thing with Splenda before I quit using it. Then I noticed I ended up “saving” way more than I would use. Sometimes people at the drive through will put packets in your back without asking if you want them, and I always hate to throw them away. I have started asking them NOT to put them in if I don’t plan to use them. It feels wasteful to throw them out. I imagine your wife and aunt feel the same way. I encourage everyone who gets unwanted packets at fast food places to ask NOT to get them, rather than throw them out. It seems like a small thing but if everyone would do it, it might make a big difference.

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