One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees… ~Leo Tolstoy
In the street outside a school what the children learn possesses them. Little boys yell as they stone a flock of bees trying to swarm between the lunchroom window and an iron grate. The boys sling furious rocks smashing the windows. The bees, buzzing their anger, are slow to attack. Then one boy is stung into quicker destruction and the school guards come long wooden sticks held out before them they advance upon the hive beating the almost finished rooms of wax apart mashing the new tunnels in while fresh honey drips down their broomsticks and the little boy feet becoming expert in destruction trample the remaining and bewildered bees into the earth.
Curious and apart four little girls look on in fascination learning a secret lesson and trying to understand their own destruction. One girl cries out “Hey, the bees weren’t making any trouble!” and she steps across the feebly buzzing ruins to peer up at the empty, grated nook “We could have studied honey-making!” ~Audre Lorde “The Bees”
…The world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places. Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee’s temper. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved. ~Sue Monk Kiddfrom The Secret Life of Bees
Our beekeeper niece Andrea gently vacuuming a swarm of honeybees on our farm into a new hive box to take home to join the rest of her several dozen hives.
When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee’s house some day. ~Congo Proverb
An old Celtic tradition necessitates sharing any news from the household with the farm’s bee hives, whether cheery like a new birth or a wedding celebration or sad like a family death. This ensures the hives’ well-being and continued connection to home and community – the bees are kept in the loop, so to speak, so they stay at home, not swarm and move on, possibly to even a less hospitable place where they may be trampled or destroyed.
Each little life should feel safe at home, each little life worthy — so much important honey-making to be done.
Good news seems always easy to share; we tend to keep bad news to ourselves so this tradition helps remind us that what affects one of us, affects us all.
These days, with instant news at our fingertips at any moment, bad news about the state of the world constantly bombards us, whether or not it is accurate. We feel compelled to respond without thinking, leading to even more swatting and trampling and destruction.
Like the bees who simply want to set up a safe place to make and store up honey, we want to flee and find a more hospitable home.
The Beekeeper, our Creator, comes personally to our rescue, reaching out to each of us to say: “Here is the sadness that is happening. All will be well, dear ones. We will navigate your lives together. You are loved and valued. Come back home to stay.”
I appear at the kitchen door, spiritual equivalent of a wet dog from a storm, tail tucked, trembling. You open your lives, this life, provide prayerful provision, a vigorous toweling down, a large bowl of kibbles. I curl up and sleep safe on the rug by your heart, the chapel that warms His, and so, restored, return to the weary world rejoicing, perhaps to provide a bracing swig from the fiery word, perhaps to lead a lost one home. ~Bonnie Thurston “Strays” from O Taste and See
How many times have I shown up muddy, cold, hungry and you invited me in, dried me off, offered me your supper, let me sleep warmed and safe?
How many times did I go back out into the world with every good intention of doing the same for other strays and yet get lost again myself?
You call me back, whistle me in, open the door to let me know no matter how much of a mess I’m in your hearth, your heart await my return.
He saw clearly how plain and simple – how narrow, even – it all was;
but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him,
and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence.
He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome. ~Kenneth Grahame, from Wind in the Willows (about the Mole and his home at Mole End)
If your everyday life seems poor to you, do not accuse it; accuse yourself, tell yourself you are not poet enough to summon up its riches; since for the creator there is no poverty and no poor or unimportant place. ― Rainer Maria Rilke
As a child, I would sometimes spend long rainy afternoons languishing on the couch at home, complaining to my mother how boring my life was. Her typical response was to remind me my boredom said more about me than about life – I became the accused, rather than the accuser, failing to summon up life’s riches. Thus convicted, my sentence followed: she would promptly give me chores to do. I learned not to voice my complaints about life because it always meant work.
Some things haven’t changed, even fifty five years later. Whenever I am tempted to feel pitiful or bored, accusing my life of being poor or unfair, I need to remember what that says about me. There is a whole world out there to explore, plenty of work needing doing and always a welcome home when I return.
If I’m not poet enough to celebrate the gilded edge of the plain and simple, if I’m not poet enough to articulate beauty even in the sharp thorns of life, if I’m not poet enough to recognize the Creator’s brilliance in every molecule, then it is my poverty I’m accusing, not his.
Back to work then. There is a life to be lived, a world to experience and words to be written.
And it is good to think we have all this to come back to, this place which is all our own.
Here is a new light on the intricate texture of things in the world…: the way we the living are nibbled and nibbling — not held aloft on a cloud in the air but bumbling pitted and scarred and broken through a frayed and beautiful land.
~Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
The weather is getting brisker so the outdoor critters, some invited, some not, are starting to move inside. The cats scoot between our legs as we open the front door, heading straight for the fireplace to bask in the warmth rather than a cold wind. The corgis come in from the yard for a nightly snack and chew bone, and stretch out on the rug, acting every bit like pieces of furry furniture. And today there was another mouse in the trap under the sink. I almost thought we were mouse-free with three weeks of none sighted and none trapped, but there he was waiting for me when I got home from work, well fed and quite dead. He became an opportune meal for a cat too lazy to go get himself a living breathing mouse.
From nibbling to nibbled. It is a tough world, inside and out.
Our most numerous and ambitious visitors from outside are the spiders, appearing miraculously crawling futilely up the sides in the bathtub, or scurrying across the kitchen floor, or webbing themselves into a corner of the ceiling with little hope of catching anything but a stray house moth or two this time of year. Arachnids are certainly determined yet stationary predators, rebuilding their sticky traps as needed to ensure their victims won’t rip away, thereby destroying the web.
I don’t really mind sharing living quarters with another of God’s creatures, but I do prefer the ones that are officially invited into our space and not surprise guests. The rest are interlopers that I tolerate with grudging admiration for their instinctive ingenuity. I admit I’m much too inept and bumbling to find my way into someone else’s abode through a barely perceptible crack, and I’m certainly incapable of weaving the intricate beauty of a symmetrical web placed just so in a high corner.
After all, I am just another creature in the same boat. There is something quite humbling about being actually invited into this frayed and beautiful, this complex and broken world, “pitted and scarred” as I am. I’m grateful I’ve so far escaped capture in the various insidious traps of life, not just the spring-loaded kind and the sticky filament kind.
So it is okay that I’m settled in, cozy in front of the fireplace, just a piece of the furniture. Just so long as I don’t startle anyone or nibble too much of what I shouldn’t, I just might be invited to stay awhile.