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.
It is the sound of life.
This past weekend, I led a women’s Soul Tending retreat in Indianapolis, thanks to the gracious invitation and hosting of my sister in law. This is my other life, based on the book I wrote, “Soul Tending, Journey into the Heart of Sabbath”
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)