Bees are the ultimate life affirming of critters. Their buzzy, busy ways, communication patterns and how they work together to collaborate is a testament to the ideal of community. They show us how human communities can become life giving places for all, rather than profiting just a few. Their common labor is for the survival and thriving of the whole—the common good. Bees work for free, offering gifts for us as humans. All the elements—honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, even stings—are therapeutic and healing.
This past weekend I attended our Annual New Mexico Beekeeping Association meeting. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Mark Winston, of Vancouver, B.C., biologist and professor at Simon Fraser University, reminded me again of what bees teach us as humans.
Honeybees are stellar communicators. Their main goal is to pass information, not to judge. They do it in a full bodied way—by dancing for one another, by various buzzing sounds, by swapping spit, by rubbing up against each other, sending pheromones, by going nose to nose. They are not averse to being engaged full throttle— employing all 5 senses. Then, as a colony, they use the information to make decisions that are best for the common good of the hive. They teach us how to listen deeply and be endlessly curious about our surroundings.
Winston reminded us that our political system is broken here in the U.S. It is a mean time of obstructionist, partisan politics. Politicians seem to relish polarizing language and beating the war drums domestically and abroad. Curiosity about another’s different idea or perspective is anachronistic. We view the “other” as someone to be silenced, deported, shouted down, disappeared. Civil discourse across divisions seems impossible.
But I noticed one positive thing at our bee meeting. Bees brought us together across all our differences. People who care about bees cut across all political, cultural and religious spectrums. We all came together from across the state to our meeting last weekend, learning how to care for bees and their habitat. The wonder, mystery and life- affirming magic of bees drew us all in for the common good.
Aganetha Dyck, a Mennonite visual artist from Canada became enchanted with bees early on. She creates art by taking objects and putting them into the hive and seeing how the bees create something amazing. Dyck understands the magic of bees. She represents their life affirming presence in her art. A honeycombed house, a bridalcomb dress…
She talks about how opening the hive makes the world stand still for a moment in time. One moves into a contemplative, liminal space. All the senses come alive with the warmth, sound and ambrosia scent of honey.
That’s where I want to be when the world is unkind and ugly— my nose in in my hive. Soon, as the weather warms, the bees will begin to fly again…