Journey to the Heart of the Hive

I just returned from Standing Rock, North Dakota.

A young street artist noted, as I painted a bee on his community canvas, “This is just like a beehive!”. We marveled at the amazing gathering of people from around the world, all entering into an alternative world of the gift economy. Like the bees, everywhere you went, people were busy volunteering their time. The first thing we were invited to do was “jump in and help” where needed. So, I worked in the kitchen. I picked up trash. I served the elders. I helped at the Sacred Sweat Lodge fire preparation. The people assembled were of all races and creeds. It was love in action. The division of labor was like a beehive—from guarding the permeable entry to make sure no weapons or drugs came in, to cleaning, to feeding, teaching and caring for the children, to helping the sick, to nonviolent resistance at the front lines where the pipeline scars remained.

No money was exchanged. It was like the peaceable kingdom. It was the Great Banquet where the least of the least, in spite of the politicians, the pundits, the journalists, the gawkers, the famous were welcomed with open hearts and arms.

And there to welcome our Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery group was our MCUSA symbol, attached to the flagpole of many nations. Where it came from, nobody knew.

Entering into the main camp (of which there are 4 camps) with thousands of others, from all over the world, including politicians and dignitaries, there was almost a festive feeling of celebration. A feasting together on justice, love, respect and an open hearted shared community. This effort is rooted in prayer.

It was remarkable to see the intelligence of thousands of human beings organizing at this remote on demand site. Red Cross and Traditional Medicine camps, makeshift kitchens. Recycling. Trash pickup. Water for the masses. Spiffy Biff’s porta-potties, regularly serviced. Ceremonial and prayer spaces. Communal gathering places to vision and plan. And the material resources pouring in….wood, water, food, clothing, tents, sleeping bags, stuff galore. And the beehive busy sorting, organizing and storing.

Horses, tents, tipis, Indigenous people from all nations—Canadian Ojibway, Shawnee, Menominee, Lummi, Potawatomi, Sisseton Wahpeton, White Mountain Apache, Mochican, Cheyenne, Lake Superior Chippewa, Crow Creek Sioux, Southern Ute, and the New Mexico Pueblos along the Rio Grande. All brought their flags and an amazing gathering of unity.

From multiple conversations, I learned that Great Chiefs such as Sitting Bull had predicted that 7 generations hence from their lifetimes, after suffering upon suffering, the 7th generation would rise up to defend Mother Earth. This would be a rainbow of humanity coming together, not just Indigenous people.

Thus, even we settlers, who represented a colonizing people, were welcomed in with generosity. As one Indigenous Elder said, “The is the way we are healing humanity”. One Maiti grandmother said, “We are all Indigenous. We are all guests. Mother Earth is the host”.

The sooner we understand this perhaps the sooner we will all heal from the sorrows we visit on each other and our lifeline, this planet.

So into this amazingly joyful community we were absorbed for four days. Sleeping on Mother Earth each day and living outside continuously would seem at first to be hard. But by the end, I felt stronger, healthier, more vital from the energies of the wind, the soil, the quiet, and unplugging from a culture that is becoming increasingly disconnected, sick and violent.

There was good news and bad news at the frontline. Mostly young people were encamped, including one very young white woman, as slender as a reed with a brilliant heart and mind.  She said that they were awaiting the court’s decision, hoping to delay things in court. Meanwhile, the Pipeline company, Enbridge and their billionaire Texas investors, had bought up all the land that we could see sweeping south to the Missouri—from a rancher who was paid millions. They planned to continue, avoiding the tiny piece of roadside that the water Protectors were encamped upon. To our North were the desecrated sacred grounds and the silent Caterpillars, for now.

Keep your hearts open. Continue to pray…and act for justice.

Winter is coming and the people are not leaving. Something too precious is at stake….for all of us.

Mini Wiconi. Water is Life.

Intelligence of Creatures

There is a little squirrel that visits me daily. Or at least I am filled with enough hubris to think she is visiting me. Her job is to find and secure nuts for the winter. She forages long into the day around my apartment here beneath the grand dames—the oak trees. But lest I think she is not paying attention to me and my habits daily in her industrious scurrying about, she taught me a lesson recently.

Last evening as twilight crept across the lake, I was journaling in my living room, facing out the great Windows to the lake.

Feeling a little down and lonely, I suddenly noticed the aforementioned squirrel arcing gracefully across the grass, with not only a nut in her cheek pouches, but a huge yellow thing plugging her mouth. I began to laugh as she jumped up on the stone wall dividing my patio from the lake, leaping into one of my lawnchairs. Clearly the bulging thing in her mouth was awkward to run with. She tried to scale the back of the patio furniture to peer at me in the window. To no avail. What was it? A yellow ball? A lemon?

So, after hovering briefly on the chair she settled for the small table. Leaping onto the top, she carefully placed the yellow object there and raced away after flicking her tail. Upon closer examination I realized it was an apple that I had brought with me from Albuquerque. Shortly after arriving from my long trip to Minnesota, I cleared out my car, finding an apple with a bad spot rolling around under my seat. I threw it out under the big spreading Maple tree in front of my apartment, where I often heard her rummaging about amongst the leaves, jumping from branch to branch. I hoped that perhaps it would provide some readily available food. I’m not surprised if she saw me and immediately examined this thing that the human had discarded. Food for the winter? A few nibbles and she clearly realized it was not going to provide the needed protein.

As if to say “I know this is yours, I’ll leave it right here for you”, she brought it back. Was it a fluke that she happened to put it on MY patio rather than one of the other humans assembled here? Creatures are constantly vigilant and curious of their environment. It is part of their indigenous nature, rooted in the piece of earth they occupy. Yet, we do not afford them the same keen observation and curiosity. We rush through our lives, preoccupied with our human endeavors and thoughts. I think of the holocaust of little furry bodies littering the roadsides as I drove north. Roads crisscross their migration paths for food gathering and travel. Our cars move at lightning speeds compared to their inner time clocks. We lose what Wendell Berry calls, “The Peace of Wild Things”.


  • Little Squirrel Wallpapers Pictures Photos Images

I am amazed that every day I am met with lessons about the manuscript I am working on. This particular day it was about creaturely intelligence. Even as I am observing the squirrel I am working with my friend Lorenzo in Albuquerque as one of our beehives will need TLC. How do we connect with their instinctual nature so as to work with them rather than against them for survival as winter nears? It is not just a matter of “the best practices of the industry”, but rather balancing that with the spiritual wisdom borne out of a relationship with the bees.  The wild ones and the ones we tame have their own innate intelligence that is not what we humans might measure according to our IQ tests. How to align with this?

It is an intelligence that is native to a place.  Indigenous. That comes from deeply being rooted in relationship to a particular land base, watershed and piece of earth shared with other creatures. Recently I read that we as humans don’t understand creatures and the natural world according to its own intelligence and wealth of knowledge. We seek to measure them against ours, finding them wanting. We miss the point. It is the same with people who are indigenous. Until we are willing to stop and listen and learn the particular wisdom that comes from being connected to one’s particular land base, we will not stop our march towards colonization and dispossession of earth or land based people.

This week I will be heading to North Dakota to be with those at Standing Rock. I feel blessed to go and be with a people whose heart and soul and very bodies are indigenous. They are so connected to their land and waters that they will rise up with fierce love to protect her. I want to be there with them.

May we all become Indigenous to the place we live and the places we love.

Footnote: today when I returned from church, the apple was gone. I wonder if I rebuffed squirrel’s offer to take back my apple?! The mystery deepens…

It’s like this… — thinklikeabee

My trail to Central Minnesota for the Fall 2016 started with the bees…gaining a grant to write about beekeeping, which snowballed into the slippery slope of advocating for The City of ABQ protection of pollinator’s, and finally the gritty work of starting a Pollinator education organization which works with youth in the South Valley this past Summer. […]

via It’s like this… — thinklikeabee

It’s like this…

My trail to Central Minnesota for the Fall 2016 started with the bees…gaining a grant to write about beekeeping, which snowballed into the slippery slope of advocating for The City of ABQ protection of pollinator’s, and finally the gritty work of starting a Pollinator education organization that works with youth in the South Valley this past Summer. Whew. It’s nice to have some time to slow down and reflect on what’s next.

To see more about the final result of Burque Bee City USA, See Facebook page, Think Like A Bee  KOAT t.v.’s coverage …

And the bees have now accompanied me through the prairies to my home here for a Writing Residency. I am grateful for their presence all along my route.

Traveling through the prairies reminded me from whence my people have sprung. My heart is full of many fond memories of visiting family in Iowa and Kansas as a child. My Aunt Belle lives there now in Hesston, Kansas. We had a special time to reconnect. She has always been the Aunt that I am told I am “most like”.  So nice to look into a mirror and see whom I might be in 30 years! A graceful presence “just like” Belle, hopefully.
Here in the disappearing prairie lands, Mennonites have carved out a small oasis here in Hesston, one of my most favorite places in the world to visit—Dyck Arboretum. Many hearts and hands have taken great care to preserve the native grasses, thick pollinator and creaturely habitat corridors that once were the majestic grasslands where the buffalo roamed. Here in the middle of Turtle Island is the homeland of the Iowa, Missouri, Kansa and Osage nations.

I usually love nature preserves hands down. But the thing that makes this particularly special is the interaction of human reflection with the land itself. In the best of all worlds, this is whom we can become—the reflective voice, eyes and ears of the earth community’s Intelligence, of which we are only one part. We can become those who honor and reverence and care for our piece of land, water and air wherever we live and pass this along to our children to do the same.

May we no longer war with nature’s beautiful design.
May we find our own healing in aligning with Her wisdom.

May we walk tall alongside those who are protectors of all things wild.

Standing Rock

Today, even as I grieve the fact that the last vestiges of our family farm, my ancestral roots in North East Ohio, have been put up for sale today, I read the news from Standing Rock in North Dakota. Many peoples are coming together on Mother Earth to courageously and peacefully stand on the front lines for their homeland that was violently torn from them centuries ago. My weeping is only a brief shadow of what the Indigenous people of this land have suffered at the hands of of the hordes of European settlers for centuries.

I have arrived to live in Western Minnesota this Fall for a Writing Residency in what was once the vast basin, the home of the Plains Indians. Stretching across the belly of this country, it included the Blackfoot, Arapaho, Assiniboine, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Lipan, Cree, Ojibwe, Sarsi, Stoney and Tonkawa, as well as the Oceti Sakowin—Dakota, Lakota and Nakota Sioux nations. Today many tribes are converging in a peaceful resistance to face down the Dakota Access pipeline. This bogus project, which begins at the Bakken oilfields of western North Dakota will bring crude oil through fragile lands, watersheds, Native sacred sites and wildlife homes across the midwest.  The Texas based pipeline company has co-opted the name Dakota, which means “friend” or “ally” to the Native people.

The First Nations people understand the Earth as a living, breathing being. They are coming from the four directions as the peaceful warriors on behalf of the silent and most vulnerable——our precious land, water and air and creatures.

I continue to puzzle that the least of these, those whom the European colonizers have marginalized and made most vulnerable among us, the Indigenous people of this continent, are the ones putting their lives and physical bodies on the line for something that all of us need to be about. Our dominant culture has lost it’s way.  Mainstream North America has become entranced by a way of life that is killing the earth. We can no longer see what is real. Gasoline is cheaper than water. It is destroying that which gives life. Even as I hear the news of Standing Rock, many friends send me the latest of the “least of these”, the bees. Killed in massive Zika spraying projects in the East and South.

This morning at the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the priest reminded us that God always resides in the most vulnerable among us. Secretly weaving new life in places where we least expect it. Our work is to wake up and cooperate with the Sacred Dance of life happening in our time.

I come from European immigrants who have settled and colonized this land in the name of the Doctrine of Discovery and a Manifest Destiny. Today I stand with the First Nations of this country. My heart is with  Iyuskin American Horse of the Rosebud Sioux who spent more than six hours attached to a pipeline digger in Mandan, North Dakota. I stand with the elders, the men and women, arrested to protest the $3.8 billion pipeline which will be used to export dirty oil, rather than create a clean energy future in this country.

I come as one whose ancestral lands belonged to the Shawnee, Delaware, Miami and Ottawa, Wyandotte and Mingo. As I release my hold on the land of my birth, I remember those whom it rightfully belonged to and I stand  now in solidarity.  It is time for people of all races, creeds, religions and backgrounds to come together to preserve Mother Earth, our lifeline. Our future is inextricably linked to all of life itself—the entire community of beings, creature, human, plant, water, land, air. Only when we learn this will we live in peace.

For all we have disrupted and polluted. For all that has been lost. For all that is yet to be lost. I pray for courage to face these times together. That our colonial minds be awakened and sovereignty be restored to all lands and peoples, that spiritual leadership arise. For those who have ears to hear and eyes to is a call to action. Find a way to support the people gathering.

May it be so.


Straight out of a Survivor episode, the past few days my girls have been industriously throwing out bee embryos. At first I panicked. Then as I read more about the possible causes of dead white embryos all around the entrance, I realized that they were thinking ahead and most likely exercising bee wisdom.

Last I checked that hive they had almost a whole honeycomb of drone brood, which both surprised and alarmed me. Drone brood is usually present when:
A) the hive is crowded and ready to swarm

B) the queen needs to be replaced.

Since Fall is imminent and I am leaving town, I placed the drone comb near the back of the hive and hoped that they girls would forget about the guys. It’s never a good sign to find drone brood, especially as winter approaches.

Well, evidently they didn’t forget about them, they threw them out of their developing nests. To reduce mouths to feed as winter approaches and temperatures plummet at night and nectar is at a premium, the girls took things into their own hands.

Sadly, the drones had arms flailing as though they tried to resist in their half formed state, but to no avail.
It was eerie.

Nature has a cruel streak. Survival of the fittest.

Somehow it seems like an apt metaphor for our political culture these days. It seems that this country has turned to a survivalist mode. We are ready to oust people of color, people of other languages, cultures, religions and lack of the proper documents from our shores—it doesn’t matter that they do the lowliest service jobs that people in this country won’t touch. It doesn’t matter that most people at our doorstep are here because of U.S. wars abroad and trade policies that have devastated their country’s economies. No kidding.

Certain segments of our culture are turning to nationalism and a rising white supremacy to ensure that those who feel threatened become powerful again.

The fact that when the most vulnerable are lifted up, all of us are lifted up, seems to be lost on a society hungry to be “great again”. Quite frankly, it’s the ones who are most threatened that probably feel the most vulnerable.

As humans, we can do better than this. Being great again means making sure everyone has a job, eats, is raised out of poverty and has a fair chance to be educated. It means that gun violence is eradicated so elementary children don’t die when they go to school one day. It means linking our independence to interdependence—with the natural world around us and all the peoples of the world who are no different than citizens of this country in our hopes and dreams.

The bees will downsize with a policy that may lead to their survival as a hive, but it will not ensure that all survive.

As humans, we can do better. This time, I say let’s “think better than a bee”.

Fashionista Bees

This little fashionista bee, which was also yummy by the way (thank you Jessie!), represents my feelings exactly. After a stunningly easy pass through of the Burque Bee City USA Resolution (“it was a love fest” as my friend Lynne so aptly put it), we are on our way. Likely the harder work lies ahead, of where the rubber actually  meets the road…even as I write this, I am aware of communities and Beekeepers in Albuquerque who are seeking to work with City officials, to ensure that the public space around them isn’t devastating their pollinator habitat and bee communities. We will all need to continue to be vigilant about habitat and chemicals going forward.

The other news that hit while I was in the throes of City Council and Bee City was the report from the New Mexico Dept. of Agriculture and New Mexico State University Entymology researchers. After examining my fallout of dead bees and a sample of comb, they determined that their were no neonicitinoids involved.

When I sampled that very hive for varroa mites, I was pleased to find that they did not test positive for mites either.

It’s a mystery. Hallelujah. That’s all I have to say about that.

In 10 short days I will be driving to Minnesota for a change of seasons and a Writing Fellowship/Residency Fall 2016.

My girls will be put to bed before I leave. It’s been a good season for honey, for learning, for a full return to health in all my backyard hives. I entrust them to Providence and will see them in the New Year!

Stay tuned for all the bee news that’s fit to print from Minnesota….

We Did It!

BURQUE BEE CITY is a reality! Over a year later, after a rather amazing cast of volunteers called on City Councilors,  spoke at Neighborhood Coalition meetings, tabled at public markets, talked with nurseries, we finally have a Resolution in place that is law. It not only raises awareness about pollinators, but opens the door for ongoing collaboration between our beekeeper associations and the city ——for increased and diverse bee habitat, reduced or pesticide free zones, bee designation signs and ongoing education and advocacy.

This is only the bee-ginning!IMG_5059(1)

We are especially  grateful to the two offices that sponsored this—Winters and Benton and their hardworking staff, Rebekkah Burt and Diane Dolan.

Councilor Benton thanked the bee community for all their work on behalf of pollinators. It was notable that Councilor Winters had no idea the bee community was so active and strong! It was fun to hear President Lewis say he wished he’d co-sponsored the bill, such bi-partisan support it enjoyed. It was a nice surprise to hear Councilor Trudy Jones say she had planted pollinator habitat in her yard, after our visit with her office.

So to all of you  who took the time to come out to City Council tonight(see photo above), who sent us good wishes, who spent countless hours volunteering, who will continue to care for your own bees, who are dedicated to planting gardens for all pollinator’s, THANK YOU!

This is a triumph for all of us in the bee community, for pollinator’s everywhere and for the Big Burque!

Honey Time

It’s harvest time.. I’ve been awaiting this and dreading it for a few months now, knowing that processing honey without a machine is going to be, well, let’s just say time-consuming and sticky.

But I am feeling a little bit giddy now that I’ve actually done the deed—pulling out about 8 bars of honey from my girls. Thick as Amber molasses and gooey as taffy, I can already taste it melting in my mouth. My bees don’t make light, floral tasting honey. They go for a thick texture and a ripe, raw earthy taste.

I’ve crushed it and now it is just dripping like liquid gold into a big bucket. It will sit like that for a few days, interspersed with some more smooshing down of the wax until it is all squeezed out and melted into the big white bucket.

Meanwhile, if you are near, come on down to the City Council on Monday, August 15, 5pm and support bees and all pollinator’s as we bring the Bee City USA Resolution to the floor to protect pollinator’s in our fair city. Wear white to stand with the Beekeepers.

If you are far away, light a candle and remember us with good thoughts.

Meanwhile, thank you for all your care for birds, bees, bats and anything pollinator!

Due to popular demand, we will keep up our swarmfunding site,  Deposit a Gift until after our Resolution passes…just in case you haven’t had the chance to contribute to ThinkLikeABee’s work!


Bee kill and Bee City USA

I just got off the phone with the New Mexico Department of Ag. They will be sending me a bee researcher tomorrow to take a sample of my dying bees.

It started about a week ago and it is still going on day by day. Very distressing to watch. Piles of them outside the hive, falling and twitching or doing head spins, their nervous systems shutting down before they died on the hot cement. I cannot say for certain if it is a neonic0tinoid poisoning. Imidacloprid  is the strongest suspect—the most prevalent neonicotinoid ingredient in over the counter bug sprays for backyard enthusiasts these days. It comes packaged by Bayer, Syngenta, DowCorning. This is a bug neurotoxin, destroying the nervous system of any insect. It has been shown to cause memory, orientation and nervous system problems, as well as reproductive decline. Dr. James Nieh, professor of biology at U.C. San Diego has studied the effects on humans. Parkinsonian symptoms and dementia.  It’s all cumulative in our ecosystem.

I hope our Bee City USA resolution at Albuquerque’s City Council meeting on August 15, 5pm will only draw more attention to the plight of honeybees and all insects and mammals impacted by this deadly class of insecticides. All of us as a human family need to begin to examine the things we do to the earth we live upon. I just read today that pesticides have increased over 30% in the last 50 years according to David Pimental, Biologist at Harvard U. Today we are looking at 3.5 pounds of pesticides per person. Likely it’s disproportionately distributed in poorer neighborhoods. But we all breathe the same air and eat the food that’s grown in the soil, with the same water.

encourage any of you to come to the City Council Chambers downtown at the Civic Plaza City Hall, basement floor, 5pm August 15 to raise your voices in support of bees!  WEAR A WHITE SHIRT or your white beekeeping suit if you are a Beekeeper.  This will make the bee supporters in the room very noticeable.

I hope to see you there!