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Pearadise Festival 2024 - The Woes of Florrie Continue...
тнαyet April 5, 2024 8:44 am


For as beautiful and sacred as the grove of the Pear Tree was, for the most part the grove received only visitors that came for a specific reason.  Casual strolling to admire the green trees and young spring flowers were reserved for gardens and parks…or the Park.  Those that did visit did so only to receive the Tree’s blessings, or had real need to seek some kind of inner peace that could only be found in the grove.  Or they were the lucky few tasked with the necessity of caring for the mother Tree, her precious child, and her guard that made up the grove itself.  Or they were Florrie, the only one allowed by Apollo to gather the Tree’s fruits.

 

Long story short, Winnie fully expected to be alone, or almost alone anyway, when she rounded the corner and stepped into the quiet, shaded central space of the grove where the shadows were starting to grow long in the late afternoon sun.  So she wasn’t paying full attention to the path, her eyes focused on the mother Tree.  She almost tripped over the tail of the old Earth Waja sitting unexpectedly just beyond the bend. 

 

“Oops!  Bless my stars, I’m being a right clumsy old fool today,” came a warm voice as the Waja quickly raised a strong steady forelimb to catch her and steady her.  “Well, if it isn’t Miss Winnie herself.  What brings you here, little miss?  I imagine you heard about poor ol’ Miss Florrie.”

 

Winnie prided herself on how well she could remember Waja faces and names, but for a moment the identity of the old Earth eluded her.  It was the sound of soft buzzing as a pair of honeybees flitted past to settle on the nose of the oldtimer that Winnie finally remembered. 

“It’s good to see you, Old Burr.” Winnie smiled.  Old Burr was far from the only beekeeper in Lunaria, but his grizzled “country” charm kept him recognizable even as the gray in his muzzle continued to advance every year.  Of course, he hadn’t been Old Burr his entire life.  When he was a pup, he had been Young Burr.  And then just Burr.  Now, he was Old Burr.  “Yes, I know about Florrie.  That’s why I’m here.  I…well, I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I’m hoping there’s something here to tell us what she’s suddenly become so badly allergic to.”  She looked around.  The grove was empty apart from them.  The air was extra sweet with the smell of pears that had not yet been collected.  “What brings you here?”

 

“Ah, a few times a year—spring, midsummer, late fall usually—keepers like myself bring our heartiest bees to help pollinate the grove.”  He nodded his head slightly at the bees still sitting comfortably on his nose.  “We take turns, make sure there’s plenty for all.  ‘Tis just my bees’ turn today for the spring gathering.” 

 

“And have you or the bees found anything strange?”

 

“None at all, Miss Winnie.  Except…well, now that you mention it, my old bees are gathering their share of nectar and pollen a lot faster than usual.” 

 

He gestured to a small wicker basket at his side.  Peeking in through one of the holes in the lid, Winnie saw over two dozen bees resting peacefully inside, each one carrying full pollen sacs for their hives.  Plump, happy, and buzzing softly as they slowly ambled about the basket’s inner latticework. 

 

“Their pollen from the Pear Tree’s blossoms?” Winnie asked.

 

“Ahyeah.  Even this old girl needs the care of bees, and she rewards them well,” Old Burr replied.  “I don’t harvest the honey my bees make from her nectar, and neither does any other keeper.”  He nodded to the mother Tree, where amidst the rainbow of leaves and growing fruits on her branches were plentiful flowers in all stages of bloom. “That is extra special honey, and only meant for the bees.  A reward for their hard work keeping the old Tree happy and strong.”

 

Winnie’s eyes widened in surprise.  She had never heard of honey made from the Pear Tree before.

 

“What do you think it means that the bees are finding their fill of pollen and nectar so much faster?”

 

“S’pose it’s just that there’s more to go around than usual, even for spring, not that the old Tree has ever been scarce this time of year.  Even when she was holding off growin’ that one seed that gave us the little lady over there, she never failed to provide for the bees.”

 

Winnie pondered Old Burr’s words as she bid him farewell and finally approached the sacred tree.  It looked just as vibrant and full of life and beauty as all the other times Winnie had been here, though she could not recall there being so many pears on the ground before.  Florrie obviously hadn’t gotten any chance to harvest this crop before her allergies became severe.  Old Burr’s bees were visible now too, happily buzzing around and gathering their bounty.  When she approached a lower-hanging branch to study one particularly large bee at work, it paused to look back up at her curiously.  This one’s sacs of pollen were almost the size of peas on either side of its plump striped abdomen. 

 

“Is that the answer?” she asked aloud, mostly to herself, but maybe some to the bee.  “There’s just a lot more pollen for Florrie to be allergic to than normal?”

 

The Tree’s bounty was indeed plentiful today, there was no doubt about that.  The leaves, the pears, the flowers.  Winnie continued to watch the bee for a few minutes as it returned to its gathering, flitting from one flower to another, continuing to grow its prized burden.  A soft gust of spring breeze whispered through the treetops, filling the whole glade with the sweet smell of pears and flowers.  Despite the seriousness of her visit and her concern for Florrie, she felt herself beginning to smile.  She simply couldn’t help it.  There was something magical in this place.  The Tree practically sparkled every time a soft beam of sunlight slipped through the rainbow canopy. 

 

...wait…it was sparkling.  Actually sparkling.

It had been a quick glimpse, just as the bee took off from its flower and bumbled off in Old Burr’s direction.  A single beam of sun had landed on the bee and its flower…and it had sparkled.  Just on one side, and a little on its abdomen, but Winnie had seen it.  And as the bee flew away, she reached out and carefully rubbed her finger into the heart of the blossom, holding it up to the light. 

 

“Old Burr!  Old Burr!”

 

How she managed to not step on any of the pears resting on the leaf-strewn ground, she didn’t know.  But she raced back to the old Earth Waja as he looked up from his basket, old eyes wide with concern.

 

“What is it, Miss Winnie?”

 

“Is this normal?”

Her heart was beating fast as she described what she had seen, hoping she’d discovered something of the mystery.  She had certainly never noticed this about the Pear Tree before, nor had she ever heard…but Old Burr was smiling calmly.

 

“Oh, ah yeah.  Nothin’ to worry about, Miss Winnie.  It is a funny thing, ain’t it?”

 

“You’ve seen this before?”

 

“First noticed it last year.  Y’see, you know each flower eventually becomes a pear, yes?”

“Yes, I knew that.”

 

“Well, last year, I started seein’ this little bit of glitter on my bees.  A couple other beekeepers saw it too.  So we took a closer look at the flowers.  Only a few of ‘em had this little sparkle in its pollen.  And…”

 

Winnie blinked, letting out an ‘ooh’ of growing realization.

“That’s right…didn’t the Pear Tree start producing a new kind of pear last year?

 

“Ah yeah, those bright red ones you see.  The Vitamin Pear.”

 

For a moment, Winnie was excited…and then she frowned.  She thought she almost had it, but if this pollen had been coming from the Pear Tree for a whole year without Florrie getting badly sick, it couldn’t be the problem now. 

 

“Well…now would you look at that.”

 

Winnie looked down.  Old Burr had very gently tilted the bee basket slightly, allowing a shaft of sun to fall inside.  Over half of the bees were sparkling a little. 

 

“They really like that vitamin pear pollen this year,” Old Burr said.

 

“They really do…” Winnie looked back towards the mother Tree.  “Old Burr…have you heard of anyone else being sensitive to the pollen from the vitamin pear flowers?”

 

“Not me, little miss, but I s’pose sometimes visitors do smell the flowers a little from time to time.  They are somethin’ sweet…”

 

It was then that another few bees flew into view.  Two of them disappeared into the basket, but the third, the biggest one so far, landed with its fellows on the bridge of Old Burr’s nose.  And in the quiet of the glade, Winnie distinctly heard the bee let out a soft, unmistakable sound as it preened its wings. 

 

Bzz…bzzz…bzzchoo!

 

It probably looked a comical sight from afar, as both Winnie and Old Burr’s jaws dropped in unison at the sound.  Neither spoke as the other two bees approached the third, helping their sister bee preen itself clean. 

 

“Well…bless my stars,” Old Burr finally said, chuckling warmly as the big bee flitted its wings and buzzed loudly, as if clearing its throat.  “S’pose it’s time to be getting on back to the hives.”

 

Winnie pondered the problem again as the oldtimer Waja carefully gathered the basket and secured it to a harness at his flank.  Was the pollen the problem?  Well…it had to be.  But was it the strange sparkling pollen, or something else?  She would have to ask around.

 

But there were a lot of Wajas to ask. 

 

She was going to need a little help.


******

Winnie needs help solving the mystery of the strange pollen so she can help all the poor Lunairans who are suffering from this sneezy season.

The path to figure this mystery out may not be straightforward, but with enough searching surely the answer will become clear!

Come along to help in the search!

 
 
 
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