Lessons from the Hive

I begin my day with Tai Chi in a wild haze of bees.  My golden girls.  Sun lovers. Their little energizer bodies are built like solar collectors.  Sunlight and heat will immediately set them in motion.

I too am a sun worshipper.  When the mornings begin to warm up, I am eager to start my day outside amongst my bees.  Here in New Mexico it is already 70 degrees at 10am.  I slowly move my limbs up and down, in circles, back and forth. The bees are shiny in their morning flight, the sun careening off their vibrating bodies.  They ignore me or go around me if I am in the way.  Their main concern is flowers. Flowers, flowers, flowers…and water.  These things go together like wine and cheese.  Flowers represent the life-force itself—filled with ripe centers of pollen and nectar for their expanding brood.  Water being something we have precious little of in the Southwest.  Water being 70% of our bodies. Water being something we should kneel down and offer thanksgiving for every time we encounter this liquid. It is more precious than gas and oil.  Rubies and gold. Money and techno toys. Big houses and fast cars.

Water is life itself. Bees know this.

I am happiest in my backyard, amidst a profusion of flowers.  It is Spring and I am flanked by periwinkles that curl around the brick wall, piles of Purple Robe Locust clusters and Apache plume bushes mounded with white flowers and buzzing bees.  The smell of bees is comforting to me.  Whiffs of warm nectar and honey issue from the hives as I open them.  There is the more musky smell of propolis—used to tack everything together. Bee superglue. The colors of pollen in the comb are reds and golds and yellows and even purples.  Colors of a New Mexico sunset. Colors of the flowers.

For the newcomer, the inside of a hive can be terrifying and intimidating with upwards of 80,000 tiny bodies vibrating and working like there is no tomorrow.  Bees know how to work.  Always on behalf of the common good of the hive.

I am at peace when my hives are full and expanding. They represent vitality.  Aliveness.  I am connected to this when they are thriving.  Though we might not know it, we need bees. 30 % of our food sources are cross-pollinated by bees as are 90 % of our wild plants. (https://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/animals/files/bees.pdf). We are mostly blissfully ignorant of this. We think that the little honeybee will always be there for us, plying her trade in our GMO Roundup Ready crops and pesticide infected yards, flowers and fruit trees. Yet, bees are dying. I lost all my hives last winter. And it was a mild winter. Like the Lorax —who picked up the skin of his rump and soared away from his over-chemicalized, over mechanized, smog choked and dying planet with a warning—-so is the message of bees today.

I begin this journey today, as a pastor and a beekeeper.  I want to explore the question—as communities, can the bees guide us to a more hopeful future as we learn to think like a bee?

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