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THE HONEY BEE AND THE SUNFLOWER

Once upon a time, in a great green garden, there lived a sunflower with petals the color of gold. High above in the trees, overlooking the garden, hummed a honey bee that was deeply in love with the sunflower. Of course the bee was not the only creature with such sentiments for the golden-rayed flower: Hummingbirds often sang her praises; children caressed her silk-soft petals; crickets danced on her leafy stem; and there were other bees that loved to tickle her with their fluttering wings. However, the sunflower and this particular honey bee had a special relationship: Only for him would she open her petals, and only he could drink of her sweet nectar. Throughout the spring and summer months the honey bee would alight on the sunflower and come away with her nectar, which he'd take to his hive and save.
            Soon the whistling wind and the falling leaves announced the advent of autumn. The sunflower's stores of nectar having been collected by the bee, and the purpose of their union thereby fulfilled, the bee returned to his hive, where he passed the winter months turning the nectar into something special and sweet, a symbol of their love. He was sad to be away from his dear flower, and every day he looked out at her from his hive. He yearned to be with her, but he knew that, since he had much work to do, separation was necessary, as were the solitude and safety of his hive, for the sake of the honey.
            Soon winter passed, and the honey bee's work being complete, he desired to visit his flower. But when he arrived in the garden, he saw something which greatly distressed him: A hand was reaching for the sunflower, tugging at her, trying to take her away. Desiring to protect his precious flower, the bee swooped down and swiftly stung the hand, but in its place a second hand appeared, and the bee could do nothing more to fight it, for he had no more stingers.
            To his great dismay, the hand took the flower from the garden and carried her into the house, where she was placed in a vase at the center of the dining room table. Family and friends gathered every evening to marvel at the exquisite beauty of the rare flower, who though homesick and growing ever more frail with each passing day, was still very fair and lovely. Each day the bee came to the house and fondly gazed at his flower. How he longed to be with her! He had to crawl to the window slowly and in stealth, for without his stinger he was becoming ever more tired, and powerless to defend himself should anyone catch sight of him. He came with a sample of the honey he had made from the nectar, and he wanted to share it with his flower.
            Finally, after an evening spent in the snow, the children chanced to leave the door to the house slightly ajar, and the bee was able to creep inside. He summoned every last drop of his waning energy to one last time flap his weary wings and raise himself in flight, and reach the vase where his flower stood. He alighted on her petals, which were fewer than before, for they had already begun to fall; and finding her stooped in slumber, he placed a taste of his honey by her heart, in the spot that her nectar used to lie. As the petal on which he rested was softer than even his own bed, the honey bee too fell fast asleep.
            Later that night the flower awoke. She saw the honey; she smelled it, felt it with her petals, and she admired the bee's great achievement. She thanked him with a smile and she slept, never again to awaken. The petal on which the bee lay soon fell as well, and he dropped to the water below, to sleep the long sleep, on his petal bed, right beside his sun-colored sweetheart.
            The following spring, when the birds chirped, and the bees buzzed, the children entered the garden to play. They found the honey bee's home in the trees, and they took the hive inside to show their parents, who found it brimful of honey. Never had anyone tasted such a sweet delicacy. It sweetened babies' milk, flavored the children's lemonade, enhanced the women's tea and cakes. The men dipped their cigars in the honey, and added a drop to their beer. Even the dogs and cats of the town got a taste when they were especially well behaved.
           And so, though the honey bee and the sunflower were no more, their memory lived on: in the mouths, minds, and, of course, in the tummies of all that tasted the token of their union.
 The love you share has a grand purpose. Spread its sweetness everywhere.

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