My back lawn is very sad. Most of its lovely green face is beneath mud now, and in other places the grass is drowned beneath rain puddles. This has been a very wet season, a record-rain season I’m told. Carter dropped sheets of old plywood across the yard so we could walk without having our shoes sucked off by the mud. Of course, the ducks are elated. Do you have any idea how many worms surface and float in weather like this? Well, Lucy and Bella do…
Yet there are no powers strong enough to deny Spring. Undaunted, dandelions are flashing coy yellow slips. The asparagus spears are heading for the sun (that isn’t there yet) a month early. My borage plants, normally not even sprouting yet, are two-feet tall with tight blue buds ready to burst. Many of them actually survived through the freezes last winter and are growing strong.
I’m pleased to report that I did Winter proud. The goes-within time was strong inside me these past few months, and I pondered on the year to come and the year past. I sat still with tea in my hand and Dinky in my lap and assimilated life. I weighed the strength of my winter larder—not the food, but the harvests of emotional maturity and wisdom. In the wake of my mother’s death in October, my winter was full of reflection time from start to finish.
In the quiet of the cold, pewter-gray days, among many other revelations, I admitted to myself that I have become totally bee-sotted. Yes, totally. Bees are on my mind constantly: teaching about bees, collecting hive goodies from the bees, reading about bees, worrying about my bees, writing about bees, coordinating bee retreats.
And this has been both a blessing and a worry of mine.
I have been writing about nature for a long time now—all of nature. Lately, my bee fascination has held much of my attention and beehives have become the home of my muse. And I worry that I am failing you, my dear and precious readers. Many of you have been following along with me for a long time. While I’ve not met most of you, I know your names, and I’ve come to cherish you. You have my gratitude and my thanks. You give me a place at your table for good conversation. You have become extended family and community to me. And it is my nature to please and to offer up what is needed from me to family and community. So I worry—honestly, I do—that you may be getting bored with my bee-ing. Bees bring a very strong anchor to my life and my reflections, but I imagine (and I am left floating out here to imagine) that not all of you have the same level of enchantment as I do for bugs—even if they are honey-making bugs.
I am sitting with this conflict and treating it as I have learned to treat all the confusions in my life: let it simmer gently on the small back-burner of my brain until it boils down to some kind of good-tasting (or at the very least, palatable) solution or direction. Sometimes this process takes weeks, sometimes months, and sometimes years. While I sit with this, I am continuing to do what the bees have suggested to me: I am to follow where they lead for now.
So I am allowing my passion for bees to take the reins. Thanks to my bee-teacher Jacqueline Freeman of spiritbee.com, I am teaching classes and getting the first invites to speak about bees in other communities, as well. I am playing house with my own bees, preparing new hive boxes for the spring to welcome new bees to MillHaven, and learning about making different kinds of hives including woven ones.
I think that my age has something to do with my current state of bee-dazzlement. As I’m getting older, I have come to realize that bees are the perfect fit for my circumstances: They are small, can take care of themselves, bring endless opportunities to learn new things, and provide another deep level of nature-relationship that I can have without ever leaving my house. I don’t have to have a lot of energy to care for bees. I don’t have to be physically strong. I’m fond of slow living, slow eating, and slow fun. Bees provide all of that. They also provide me with an opportunity to interact with a totally different form of consciousness—a higher form than ours, I believe.
As do the other wild creatures out back—the birds, squirrels, frogs, and plants—bees call me out into the yard, and science is proving beyond any doubt that time spent outdoors in nature is healing. I already knew that, but it is nice to have it confirmed. And like our ducks, the bees have helped all our plants and flowers to become lush and vibrant. That our little yard is an Eden is fully the work of the ducks and bees.
It is my nature to always be moving on—from home to home, from hobby to hobby, from interest to interest. I’ve made a promise to myself to stay put here at MillHaven. It is perfect enough. I’m planting roots. Finally. Perhaps the bees will become a permanent fixture in my life as well. I hope and suspect that is the case. They are wonderful teachers and amusing friends. Maybe my bee-sottedness will spill over onto some of you, and tempt you to place a hive in your own yard. As Winnie the Pooh says, “You never can tell with bees.”
Springtime with bees is the most exciting season. Colonies that survived winter well are preparing to swarm—to send off their old queen and 2/3rds of their worker bees—to expand their horizons. I’m following all this ramped-up bee energy in my backyard, and feeling the exhilaration of my one surviving hive. I lost five hives this past winter. Only one remains. That is beekeeping in the dawn of the 21st century: Hives die, even if you do everything right. I’m sad for the losses. We backyard beekeepers love our bees like family. But I am grateful for the gifts they left behind: frames of honey and beautiful clean comb that will go to care for their sisters to come, plus memories of their joyful presence.
Even with all the rain, my remaining hive, Brigid-Rose, is busy busy busy. Only a month ago the bees were hunkered down in their hive doing what I was doing in the winter cold: Dreaming, pondering, surviving. Suddenly with the first warmer days and the first spring blooms they are coming and going by the hundreds, filmy clouds of them floating at the hive entrance, waiting for the landing board to clear off a bit so they can deliver their fat baskets of yellow and orange pollen.
I am keenly aware that my own mood matches theirs exactly. My brain went from a slow, quiet exhale to a full-on buzz as the first flowers popped. Spring! The season of possibilities, new dreams, and startling synchronicities! The cells in my brain are suddenly like little amber bee bodies, humming, bumping into each other in flight, hurrying off to new horizons. It is wonderful to have creatures close by who are seasonal. They remind us—because we have long forgotten—how we are to live into the seasonal rhythms.
At MillHaven, the bees are modeling that near frenetic spring energy and when I’m having a slow day, I go sit by Brigid-Rose and breathe in her excitement. It may not make me kick up my heels, but it always makes me smile. In our bucket pond, Legs has awakened, stroking up to the surface waters on strong frog legs, leaving the depths of winter and of soul-searching time behind him. And I’m following his lead, turning away more from thought and more toward action for these next busy months.
Spring is also the season of song. Birds are returning and calling out to mates. The spring rains tap out drum rolls on the roof. Crickets return. And the bees hum. There is a very ancient chant called Bhramari Pranayama in which one hums the sound of bees. I am certain deep down in my body where such things are felt that this chant and the hum of bees is a healing vibration. And it is invigorating—a rite of spring, the return of the honey hum.
Where Brigid-Rose leads me this summer is a Pooh kind of thing. Wherever she goes, I’ll learn much by following along. And I’ll keep you posted.