Think Like a Bee, a bee education and advocacy non-profit (501(c)3 based in Albuquerque, will host a fun(d) raiser at the Flying Star restaurant on Rio Grande, in Albuquerque, NM this Thursday, 4-8pm!
Come on down with your family and enjoy a meal and a little Bee Love! 10% of all proceeds will come to support the work we are doing.
There will be a Raffle, face painting, ways to help bees and fun stuff for families!
Here’s the invite…pass it on!
Here’s some of the good stuff we’ve been up to…
2015-2017 we secured grants to offer youth summer organic farming interns and mentoring on growing good food and the importance of pollinators.
In 2016 we successfully petitioned the City of Albuquerque and unanimously passed a pollinator protection resolution, Burque Bee City, working with CABQ, neighborhoods, schools and the public on best ways to support healthy pollinators
2018-2019 we worked with UNM Taos Digital Media Arts program and students to create a Rio Grande Documentary with local farmers and Indigenous leaders, on best practices to conserve pollinator habitat for a healthy food future
Today we are taking our documentary on the road! We continuing to educate and advocate about habitat conservation and best bee practices, ways everyone can help keep our air, water, soil and food healthy for all pollinators and seven generations.
When you fall in love with being alive, life loves you back. What doesn’t love to be loved? What doesn’t feel humbled and ecstatic with the luck of not being left unrequited? Love the sun and it lets you see its green and growing edge moving through the darkest human history like a forest moves renewed across an ashen void. Falling in love smooths flaws, sees genius in oddity, morphs blemishes and bulges into sweet slopes and curves, restores trust and withers grudges with just the fascination, the single focus of adoring curiosity. And life itself always knows it, and gives you back all it’s got.
V. B. Price, Christmas Poem 2019 Mercury Messenger
We face a new year and a new decade. 2020 is apt. We need new vision—clear sight and updated eyeglasses for times such as this. As we head into 2020, I wish you a love affair with all the non-human, created world. Learn about earth’s mind blowing mysteries. Revel in creaturely wisdom. Behold beauty in everything. Teach your children and beloveds.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.”
(Baba Dioum, Senegalese Forestry Engineer, 1968.)
I’ve found that poetry and image are the forms that can cut quickly to the chase— what is most essential. Here is Life in all its Myriad Forms in the carefully distilled words of the poets heart…and the eyes of the photographer.
What is this dark hum among the roses?
The bees have gone simple, sipping,
that’s all. What did you expect? Sophistication?
They’re small creatures and they are
filling their bodies with sweetness, how could they not
moan in happiness? The little
worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.
Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand
that life is a blessing. I have found them-haven’t you?—
stopped in the very cups of the flowers, their wings
a little tattered—so much flying about, to the hive,
then out into the world, then back, and perhaps dancing,
should the task be to be a scout –sweet, dancing bee.
I think there isn’t anything in this world I don’t
admire. If there is, I don’t know what it is. I
haven’t met it yet. Nor expect to. The bee is small,
and since I wear glasses, so I can see the traffic and
read books, I have to
take them off and bend close to study and
understand what is happening. It’s not hard, it’s in fact
as instructive as anything I have ever studied. Plus, too,
it’s love almost too fierce to endure, the bee
nuzzling like that into the blouse
of the rose. And the fragrance, and the honey, and of course
the sun, the purely pure sun, shining, all the while, over
all of us.
Hum, by Mary Oliver
Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,
dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
becomes for a moment fragmented,
then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine
how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,
this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;
I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
Starlings in Winter – Mary Oliver (from: Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays)
I look out into my front yard and see dead bees mounting up on the ground around one hive. I fear they haven’t survived the frigid 20 degree temps. I see the Roadrunner as a shadow in the distance, patiently waiting for me to exit so he can swoop in for a feast of bee protein.
If my bees have survived, the queen is already laying eggs deep in the dark, dank hive —preparing a new brood of baby female worker bees who emerge when the temps release their iron grip and the spring flowers beckon.
Here’s to a new year, filled with the peace of wild things, and the ability to see with new sight, to carry out our work in community, dismantling the old and creating anew.
Before the end of this bee season, I found a laying worker hive. Any beekeeper will know that this is the worst possible situation. The queen’s demise has left the hive without any clear direction—or brood for future generations. They will surely die.
Eggs of laying workers. To fix a laying worker hive you have to suppress worker ovaries.
Into this void steps regular female worker bees, whose eggs haven’t been fertilized. But she is determined to take the title of “queen bee” by laying, basically, empty bullets. She fills up the hive with unfertilized haploid eggs. They become drones. The hive fills up with boys and food. Without the diploid worker bee eggs from the Queen bee, the hive will surely die.
So, for the less bee- inclined among you, already you are saying, “please, what happened? Stop this bee-ease talk”.
Wisdom among many beekeepers is to dump the whole hive out in the yard and disorient the hive, hopefully dissuading the virgin bee that is dead set on a royal title.
Then, switch the hive to one that has fresh brood from another well endowed sister hive and put a few queen-right bars of brood, along with a mated queen in there. When the disoriented bees finally find their way back to the hive, it has been “reset”. The laying worker will be “balled” and thrown out, if the new queen has the blessing of the other workers.
The youtube videos I watched were neat and easy. Bees were always cooperative and friendly. Clearly it had been rehearsed. Multiple times.
I obtained my queen on a late Sunday afternoon, the heat was a severe 97 degrees Fahrenheit. I needed to put her in before nightfall. Unfortunately, the storm clouds began to gather as we drove home. Big fat drops fell.
Bees hate rain.
I hate rain. Especially when I’m trying to work with the bees—mainly because they hate rain.
Nevertheless I recruited my husband. We valiantly suited up and I began to shake the bees out far from their hive, bar by bar. As the storm clouds receded, another kind of storm took over. Bees rose up in a tornado of indignation, no happy queen pheromones to mute their fury. First they found my bare feet inside my purple crocs. Then they found their way into my hood.
My husband stood aside and watched in fascination. I danced around the yard, until finally taking refuge in our screened in porch. I returned.
We shook those bees out, rearranged their reality, and stirred them up. big time. Some robber bees in the neighborhood came to join the melee. Honey dripping everywhere as the heat melted the Topbars of honeycomb like butter.
I raced to get all the brood, Topbars and the queen in her little cage arranged inside before the enraged and confused bees began their trek back to their hive.
All this to say, I think it worked. Before I closed them up for the winter, I checked. The girls are accepting the new queen.
I am left to think about this thing of “re-setting” a hive…I am paying attention to the fact that I am in process of re-setting some things in my own life.
And then there is our culture. Seems like we are going through the same shake down. Especially around global climate chaos. We are in the midst of a big shuffle. A messy, gnarly shake down to reset our lifestyles and our body politic. Perhaps, pretty please, along with my girls, this re-set will take us all in a positive and life-giving direction.
I love what Greta Thunberg, the wonder girl for climate action, said:
When we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope—look for action. Then the hope will come
If we don’t find the courage to “shake it all out”, If we continue in the same trajectory, death will be a sure route. It should give us the courage to re-set.
Youth Global climate summits are coming up in cities across the country on Fridays.
Check out one near you! Join them. The youth are leading this time.
Recently I was climbing Raven’s Ridge in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, which surround Santa Fe.
As my husband and I walked along in silence, leaves crackling under our feet and the crisp smell of Autumn in our nostrils, I heard a hum. Barely audible unless I stopped stock still. But, yes, it was there.
It sounded familiar. We stopped. I listened. I noticed bees. The death knell had not yet tolled for their short summer lives. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
I felt comforted by this sound, as I always do when I enter the inner sanctum of the honeybee hive or sit at the feet of the hive.
As we came to the final ceremony to close our time together, we remembered All Souls day, bringing our sacred objects to the altar and, often tearfully saying the names of our beloveds who had flown across that great river to the other side. After each naming, we said, “May their memory be a blessing”.
I remembered the bees. They are only one of millions of species estimated to be driven into extinction in this time of increasing climate chaos from fossil fuel activity and carbon dioxide released into the air. Our planet is warming, disrupting weather patterns, our natural greenhouse, and causing ecological catastrophes.
There is a story circulated from medieval times in the old country of Europe. Upon the death of the Beekeeper, loved ones would first go out to the beehive and in hushed tones, tell the girls that their keeper was dead. Gone. Traveling now to another country.
Not so strange. Throughout time and mythologically, Bees have always been associated with resurrection, a symbol of life and fertility, and evidently, upon death, new life!
But more than this, in this strange and endearing practice of “Telling the Bees“, it bespeaks the inclusion of the girls as part of the family circle. Bees shared generously of the gifts from their hive, not only honey, but the gift of pollination and the health of our food system. A trusting relationship was forged . The love and respect of bees with the old, beloved beekeeper and his/her family was real.
I celebrate the fact that humans are awakening to the preciousness of “the other”, our wild non-human relations and the importance of insects.
I am grateful for the young ones among us who are sending strong, clear messages that “time is up” and we must change our ways and bring about the transition to a fossil free future.
I am also very often, sitting and weeping, lamenting the loss of so much that we have not understood as our relations. Family. The wild ones. planet earth and all her inhabitants. It is time for us to hear the Bees “telling the humans” about our own death, if we are not willing to change our ways.
Getting back to the hum.
We are moving towards winter solstice. Winter. And the bees are still flying. After a few cold snaps, the weather returns to 50, 60, 70 degrees F where I live in New Mexico. While I love to hear the hum of the hive, it brings me great joy, I am also aware that if they stay active, honeybees will eat up their winter honey and pollen stores too quickly. They must go dormant soon.
I am listening to the hum. It keeps me awake. I am praying. I am acting on behalf of the bees.
In the name of the Bee -And of the Butterfly -And of the Breeze – Amen! (Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886)
Nothing new. It’s the economic system we have proudly built in the West. Anything that is gift, given freely by Mother Earth, is quickly snatched up by hungry profit seekers. It is codified, standardized, chemicalized and dominated. A system that has industrialized almost every part of our food system, destroyed and pillaged the natural world and spread a religion of “not enough”, scarcity. Abundance is only for the few who can afford it.
Recently, my brother sent me the trailer for Honeyland, the most awarded film at the Sundance Film Festival this year. It was an epic 3 year project in the making.
I watched it and wrote back to him:
I think this will break my heart…it’s the colonization story all over again. A woman’s way of protecting and caring for the community (of bees and humans) “half for us and half for the bees” is stomped into the ground by this profiteering, domination system. It is the sorrow of losing a way of life.
What began as a beautiful reflection on a woman’s relationship with the honeybees in a far and distant land, is trampled. Here’s the story line…
Hatidze lives with her ailing mother in the mountains of Macedonia, making a living cultivating honey using ancient beekeeping traditions. When an unruly family moves in next door, what at first seems like a balm for her solitude becomes a source of tension as they, too, want to practice beekeeping, while disregarding her advice…HONEYLAND is an epic, visually stunning portrait of the delicate balance between nature and humanity that has something sweet for everyone.
For me, movies like this are wake up calls. May they come thick and fast from this new generation of movie makers.
I pray it will give those who see this film a will to speak and see and hear, as Jane Fonda says, “a reverence humming” all around us.
It’s the only hope we have for our food web. For humanity sake itself.
This is the month for the bees – the heavy, sweet month – with much of the promise and the failure of the crop year in it. (The Old Farmers Almanac, 1944)
It is the outgoing month of June. In the bee world, it is Pollinator month. Summer Solstice. The month of honey harvesting (if you are lucky). The peak of fertility.
Now, into July, the queen will taper off her laying of eggs. Food will become less abundant. Here in the Southwest, temperatures will soar into the triple digits. Plants will turn brown. Rain is scarce. Nectar and pollen flow dries up. I imagine the bees lolling around in their hive, drinking Meade, fanning themselves with their collective 4 million gossamer wings. They’ve worked their patuttis off since February and now they can just live off the fruits of their labor. Relax a little. Until the Fall bloom…
I left a few of my early Spring swarms languish too long in their hives without checking them. Now they are overpopulated and honey is oozing out of them. Blackberry honey and wildflower honey.
If the Old Farmers Almanac is correct, the harvested honey is a bellwether of promise for a very, very good year.
Recently my husband and I saw “The Biggest Little Farm”. It is a hilarious, heartwarming and gripping 7 year saga of a young enthusiastic couple from Los Angeles choosing to commit and dedicate their energy and life to growing healthy food. She is a chef. He is a documentary filmmaker.
It’s all about the soil. Healthy fungi. Biodiversity of plant life and creatures. And above all—Water is life.
These wanna be farmers became bona fide as they turned dead, inert dirt into a cornucopia of living soil and food.
They managed to also raise a stunning army of beneficial bugs to fight the pestilence that descended upon Paradise at some point. As they began to see every single life form as having a purpose, they became creative.
Even those coyotes hovering on the horizon had a role to play. Those very same coyotes saved the farm when the gophers overran the orchard. The coyotes moved in, feasting upon those unfortunate critters night after night.
The ducks saved the day upon the snail invasion.
The story, in the end, is about the hard years and the triumphant years. As life goes, sorrow and joy are usually two sides of the same coin. Eventually all the blood, sweat and tears of building a wholistic web of life, with the full spectrum of microrganisms to predators, pays off—in dividends. Their eggs and produce are snatched up at the local farmers market for taste and delicacy. Crowds descend to see this biggest, little farm.
After 10 years of my own wonder lusting after the mysterious honeybee, the spectacular joy of being in the presence of the hive mind — as well as slogging through some of my own horrendous years of bee death, mutiny, pestilence, robbing and my own ignorance—Molly and John feel like old friends. I want to sit down over a glass of California Chardonnay and swap stories.
This year, I sit back and watch my girls soar, almost without my meddling or doing anything. Like a parent of my 10th child, I am less over-anxious. I have less need to control or know everything. I feel more permissive.
For years, I have worked to build up colonies of healthy, local queens, low mite counts, strong immune systems and always, ALWAYS, organic farms or chemical free habitats. It’s paying off this year.
And you will bee too when you taste my honey.
Summer’s in the sound of June, Summer and a deepened tune, Of the bees and of the birds, And the loitering of lover’s words.James Henry Leigh Hunt, English poet (1784-1859)
Many people are changing our food system, bit by bit. They get precious little recognition for creating healthy, sustainable and poison-free, local “living Food” webs. Unlike famous chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver, Paula Dean or Michelle Obama, who had a garden at the White House, they toil invisibly.
I want to honor all these humble, salt of the earth, soil warriors, who are feeding communities and changing the way we see and eat food. For they are rejecting a food system dripping with fossil fuel and renewing our vision for agriculture on a smaller scale to withstand climate change and support pollinators and all living beings healthfully into the future.
Healing our food is beyond important not only for bees but human and earth’s survival. With our current sick, industrial agricultural system, bees will not survive into the next century. Food insecurity will be massive.
Let me tell you about two of my heroines, laboring in Boulder Utah, along Hell’s Backbone in South Central Utah, to bring real food back to the tables. Part of the Bears Ears National Monument, sacred and ceremonial ancestral lands for indigenous peoples, designated by Obama, torn asunder by Trump and his band of oil and gas cronies, it is now under litigation to preserve its integrity.
Back in the day, Boulder Utah, largely a Mormon settlement of ranchers, pop. 225, was remote enough, and off the beaten trail, to attract few visitors. I heard it’s claim to fame was having the purest air in the country.
Blake Spalding and Jennifer Castle, both well seasoned chefs, came to this “edge of the wilderness” over 19 years ago to open a restaurant. Their vision was big. In a remote area, with winter lasting half the year, they planned to opt out of the “toxic supply of mega-factory farms and corporate distribution hubs like Sysco….and make a stand for real food untainted by poisons and an enormous carbon footprint…[with]food far superior in flavor and nutrition” (This Immeasurable Place: Food and Farming from the Edge of Wilderness, Blake Spalding and Jennifer Castle, 2017), p.19.
To do this they began to keep their own chickens, grow all the produce they could and recycle, compost and plow 100% of their food waste back into the earth and the animals. Blake bought 6 acres and named it Blaker’s Acres. They employed a posse of young millennials, brilliant and unafraid of hard work, ready to roll up their sleeves and jump on the steep learning curve.
What has come about all these years later is a testament to hard work, vision and unrelenting courage. It is a haven for all living beings. Blake is Buddhist and none of the critters that come calling for dinner, will ever be destroyed. Only outsmarted. Mice will be relocated, deer fences erected, and folk remedies employed such as cinnamon to repell ants and a bag of water with a penny taped to it for the flies. It’s been brutal at times with gophers, weeds, aphids, frost and micro climates shredding crops. Blake says that she is often wracked with doubt and fear, but welcomes her anxiety to the table as an honored guest. It is her spiritual teacher.
The most fascinating story for me of course was their ill fated and short lived experiment with honeybees. One day they noticed when checking them, that they smelled like a litter box. Turned out a mountain lion had come in the night, peed on the hives and knocked them over. That was the end of that.
The story of food doesn’t end there. As their very town and the land has been threatened now by oil and gas and the current powers that be, these two women chefs, of Hell’s Backbone Grill, have mobilized a whole community not only around nutritious sustainable food, but advocacy for this treasured land. They realize that if big oil and the frackers move in, the water and soil will no longer be protected. They have received national acclaim and a whole new wave of followers from their courageous stance.
So this week, find a farmer that you admire and honor say thank you.
As for the bees….this is National Pollinator Week. Twelve years ago, the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June to bring awareness and a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.
I promised you I’d be exploring ways to find hope in the face of this monster tsunami of climate chaos facing our lovely home and all her creatures.
But many days I feel despair. I avoid writing my blog. I don’t want to report on another project or initiative or grant funded green project. Are they really making a difference?
When I look at the big picture or hear the ppm’s of carbon that are being spewed today—evidently higher than they’ve been for millions of years— I go into a fog. I think of all the species going extinct. My rage overwhelms me at the lack of political will. A hopeless wall of grief rises around me and I fall into a very dark place.
And my friend, Sister Joan Brown, Franciscan, Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light chapter in Albuquerque NM— honored under Obama’s White House with 12 others nationwide who are working to reverse the odds of Climate Change. She goes where angels fear to tread.
Or Lyla June Johnston, Standing Rock young spiritual leader, earth warrioress
And I realize. It’s not the projects, ideas, wind turbines, new solar panels giving me hope. It’s the voices, the energy, the courageous, quite frankly, womenbehind the movements and projects. Like the suffragettes, they are often considered whack jobs or disregarded as alarmist or sirens in their own times. But they are the wise ones. I will follow them into the wilderness, for they embody what is real and what is possible. Despite the odds, they are igniting movements around the world.
When I think of hopeful things happening, I think that it is happening locally, usually one woman at a time, with a vision in hand, calling on her city, village, township or pueblo to take a step beyond complacence and “the way we’ve always done it”.
I look at the small things done with great love in my community, and around the world, and I have enough juice for one more day.
If you have hopeful stories where you are, please send them to me. People often do send me amazing bee stories, and I try to incorporate them into my blog. I can’t lift this alone, friends. I need your voices, your strength, your hope and your action to continue the work of climate justice. Pollinators will not survive this without human intervention.
Together as I work locally, and you do the same, we will create a web of resilience and change reaching around the world—a womb of protection around our Earth home.
An excerpt from “Home Planet”, (Chinese-American astronaut, Taylor Wang):
A Chinese tale tells of some men sent to harm a young girl, who upon seeing her beauty, become her protectors rather than her violators. That’s how I felt seeing the earth for the first time. “I could not help but love and cherish her.”
Home Planet by Kevin W. Kelley (Da Capo Press, 1988)