Goodbye Big Trees — Nicole Sallak Anderson

Nicole Sallak Anderson
5 min readMay 23

I’ve long had the habit of talking to the bees. It was something I’d been looking forward to during my time in California. Originally, I was supposed to return to the Big Trees in January, but my mother had some health issues and I needed to stay in Chicago until mid-March. Thus, my time at Big Trees was cut short by months.

It was a cold winter in California though, so I didn’t miss much. My poor husband came back in early February and endured five weeks of rain, 70 mph winds, 8 inches of snow, a leaking tiny home, and a broken heater. By the time I arrived, I’d hoped the winter would have passed but that wasn’t the case. It wouldn’t be until mid-April before it became warm enough for me to sit beside the bees and contemplate life, and even today it’s too chilly to do so. Bees are inactive when it’s cold out-like me, they prefer to bask in the sun.

Yesterday though, was a beautiful day, and as such, I was able to chat with my buzzing friends, the sunlight pouring over us, as they zoomed in and out of their hive. The grass that now grows over my goats’ grave swayed in the breeze and a pair of quail walked past, taking no note of me, as if I were invisible. I heard them coo to one another, prattling about their day. My gaze settled upon the meadow, and I closed my eyes, pretending I was on my back deck, trying to remember the life I lost in the fire.

I recalled standing in the kitchen on a similar sunny day in May over a decade ago, a buzz filling the air. Running out to the back porch, I discovered the bees had formed a beard as long as Gandalf’s out of the hive and down their little front porch. A hum like no other pulsed and echoed across the deck. I held my coffee and watched in awe. Nearby, the goats-Barttimus and Abigail-munched the meadow grass, bleating gently while backing away from the hive, yet watching the bees with their alien, horizontal slit eyes. Suddenly, the air above us filled with little black specks as thousands of bees scattered in all directions. The hum was amazing, something I’d never experienced before, yet something so ancient, my heart recognized it. The bees were swarming. The goats and I remained still, my own jaw dropped, theirs moving rhythmically while they chewed their cud, as we watched the bees form a black bee-tornado and twirl away from us, shimmying between the…

Nicole Sallak Anderson

Novelist, California wildfire survivor, essayist. Find my latest novel, It Takes Two, a romance with a reincarnation twist @Amazon.