Solar Amish and Bees

“Fire in the Sky” read the neon paper sign on its wire frame, blown flat at the Kidron Evergreen Park in Northeast Ohio. The woods were populated with Morgan Horses, the graceful and beautiful beast of burden that most Amish prefer. Tied to trees, their harnesses were lifeless and pelts wet from hauling their masters into town that day. Nineteenth century style black buggies with large skinny wooden wheels were scattered among the trees. It was a Solar Energy event. Small and isolated by most standards. That doesn’t matter. The Amish have never much cared to be famous or noticed.

The Sun

This is the small town where I was raised up. The Amish have always lived here in what has been seen as a back to the earth, pre industrial revolution lifestyle. They have piqued the curiosity of the world around, gazing in at what seems anachronistic and “backwards”. Soon the Amish will be surpassing the world around in the race for renewable energy and a sustainable future for their communities. They never did quite buy into the industrialization of their lives and farms. Lucky for them. The inevitable collapse of and transition from the earth destroying fossil fuel industry, will be less painful.

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Green Energy Ohio ran an article on the explosion of solar technology among the Amish of Northeast Ohio 10 years ago. In it, they noted the forward thinking Amish already reading the writing on the wall. Whether they know or care that the  green revolution they’ve been living for centuries is coming back into vogue, it matters not a whit. The earth is being destroyed and polluted at an alarming rate by our fossil fuel driven lifestyles. They are pragmatic and wise stewards of God’s earth. That’s what matters to them. “I am a Christian and I am Amish.But being Amish is not a religion. It’s a way of life”, said Jake Raber. 

Though still resisted by a few hard-line Amish denominations, this technology that NASA relies on for its most advanced spacecraft is being heartily embraced by more and more of the plain-spoken folk. They view it as a safe alternative to lighting their homes with natural gas, white gasoline or kerosene.

Organic dairy, beef and chicken farmer Owen Nisley on County Road 600 near Charm, describes solar as natural as nature itself – “no different from my cows eating the grass that has captured the sun’s energy.”

Nisley’s solar panels generate about 500 watts of power. “The initial setup was very expensive,” he said, “but we love the solar, even in the winter when there are a lot of dark days.”

The equipment has become so prevalent that Green Energy Ohio is organizing an Amish Country tour during the American Solar Energy Society’s 36th annual convention, July 7-12, in Cleveland. About 1,800 people from across the nation are expected to attend the conference and trade show.

Squaring solar panels with Amish religious beliefs is easy. “I am a Christian and I am Amish. But being Amish is not a religion. It’s a way of life,” said Jake Raber, co-owner of The Lighthouse of Ohio Distribution, Ltd., in nearby Fredericksburg. “Being Amish means being independent.” Raber and his wife Betty ordered $50,000 worth of solar panels last year from suppliers in Michigan and Japan. They sold them all.

“Use common sense,” he said. “You can fill a 50-gallon drum with white [clear] gas at $4 per gallon twice a year, or you can install solar. It’s renewable. You can spend $600 on a solar panel, but it lasts 20 years.”

For bees this is good news. They have their own little solar collectors on their backs. They are the quintessential solar energy savers on the planet.They are animated by the sun everyday. They are light beings. They orient their flight patterns and dispense directions to the hive for nectar flows,  pollen gathering and new digs based on the sun’s arc and movement across the sky. Like the Indigenous peoples they are experts at reading and living by the rhythms of the planet. “Going solar” is a way of life.

The Amish and bees….showing us the way forward.

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Patron Saint of Bees

Who knew? There is an Irish patron saint of bees. And a woman at that!

February 12 is the celebration of St. Gobnait, 6th century patron saint of healing for the sick. In 2008, I visited Ballyvourney, County Cork where the shrine built for Gobnait in the 12th or 13th century still stands. On the land given to her by  St. Abban, she established a nunnery, with an old graveyard and medieval parish church known as Teampall Ghobhatan ( the church of Gobnait). There is also a holy “healing” well for the ailing who come to partake of the waters. The interesting thing I noted is that Gobnait had bees crawling up her cloak (cement bees that is) and the base of the statue was adorned with bee symbols (look closely!) Little did I know back then, where the trajectory of my life would take me…back to the hive.

Gobnait was [also] the patron saint of bee keepers and kept her own bees.  There are a number of  legend  in which she unleashes her bees to attack enemies. In one  story soldiers came to Ballyvourney and stole livestock, as they left the village the saint  let loose her honey-bees upon them.  Another version of this tale has a band of robbers stealing her cattle and she sends her bees  after them and they promptly return the  cattle. It is this legend that inspired the Harry Clarke window. Many modern depictions of the saint  associate her with bees such as the  statue at her shrine in Ballyvourney by  Séamus Murphy.

In my beekeeping years, I have come to study the powerful association of bees to human art, literature and theology. Evidently the history books show that we have an ancient, deep and abiding connection with bees. I’m not surprised that our wonder and awe of bees has been re-animated as they have become endangered.

For millions of years, bees have been associated with resurrection, thrift, prosperity, healing, fertility and many other fascinating adjectives. More are returning to the folkways of bee medicine. All the elements of the hive are full of healing properties—from the sting for arthritis to pollen as protein and allergy antidote, to propolis and honey as anti-bacterial. And of course honey is wildly delicious!

I end with a lovely bit of a poem/prayer by Christine Valters Paintner….in honor of St. Gobnait and the bees.

Is there a place for each of us,
where we no longer yearn to be elsewhere?
Where our work is to simply soften,
wait, and pay close attention?

She smiles as bees gather eagerly
around her too, wings humming softly
as they collect essence of wildflowers,
transmuting labor into gold.

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old graveyard at Teampall Ghobhatan (the church of Gobnait)

 

 

 

 

 

Love Your Critters

A country is only as great as how it treats its most vulnerable.

In a deeply disturbing move last week, the USDA mysteriously removed the website on animal welfare inspection reports.

Advocacy groups, journalists and other members of the public have used the information to track any potential history of abuses on the part of animal testing labs and commercial dog and horse breeders.

The head of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, said the group often used the now-removed USDA reports to track animal rights abuses.

“We assembled information about the worst operators of puppy mills, people who were violating the federal Horse Protection Act,” Pacelle said.

Pacelle said taking down some of that information violates a settlement between the USDA and the Humane Society over public access to Animal Welfare Act reports. He’s prepared to take legal action.

Bees are only one of the many beautiful, gracious creatures companioning us on earth that need our voice.  Thursday I will go up to Santa Fe’s Roundhouse to support the Senate Bee Memorial #4 labeling pollinator friendly plants in our state’s nurseries. This is being sponsored by UNM Wild Friends, the amazing group of NM school children who put forward a bill every year to safeguard our precious heritage of “wild friends”.  I invite you to support this memorial and contact your Senate Conservation Committee members before Thursday, Feb. 9. Bees need our voice!

NM SENATE CONSERVATION COMMITTEE

Senator Joseph Cervantes D Chair
Senator Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics D Vice Chair
Senator Ron Griggs R Member
Senator Richard C. Martinez D Member
Senator Cisco McSorley D Member
Senator William H. Payne R Member
Senator William P. Soules D Member
Senator Peter Wirth D Member
Senator Pat Woods R Ranking Member

This week I had a chance encounter with a winged one that is often despised. The pigeon. As my husband and I drove to the voting precinct on Tuesday a pigeon waddled into the street right into our car’s path. “Stop the car!” I shouted. I jumped out as the pigeon sat under our wheel blinking at me, seemingly dazed. Then I noticed she was banded. She belonged to Johnnie Williams in Amarillo, Texas. I wrapped the pigeon in a towel and we brought her home. We called Johnnie in Texas and he told us that he had recently sold her to someone in our neighborhood. When we mentioned her unusually docile behavior, he said that she must be practically starved. So we called her new owner. Edward promptly came to pick her up. Clearly he loved pigeons, having kept them since a teenager. All God’s creatures deserve a place on this planet he said, his face beaming as he gently held the little pigeon, noting how she was “empty” of food as he touched her belly. It was amazing what he could tell just by holding her. As a pigeon aficionado (It’s true. Can you believe it?!) he took pigeons into civic associations, schools and neighborhood youth centers to teach them about the importance of pigeons and why they had a rightful place on the planet. I was touched by his love of such a humble and usually despised bird.

Hear our humble prayer, O God for our friends, the animals, especially for animals who are suffering, for any that are hunted or lost, or deserted or frightened or hungry, for all that must be put to death. We entreat for them all thy mercy and pity and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words. Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals and so to share the blessings of the merciful. —Albert Schweitzer  (Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon, eds. Earth Prayers, HarperSanFrancisco, 254)

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United we stand, divided we fall

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Giant honey bee (Apis dorsata)
Author Ken Wilbur, recently addressed the critical intersection of human spiritual development that we are facing. He basically said that we have created a society that has lapsed into individualism, narcissism (“my opinion” at the expense of everyone else’s) and nihilism. Over decades, truth has become a casualty of such individualism. I get to define my life’s truth over yours—creating divisions and resentment in our civil society.
In the article he notes that the internet, which was borne as a free flowing international web of information has, as Time Magazine said, become “a sociopath”,  fostering some of our worst behavior, with no real authority to inhibit bad behavior. Google and Facebook’s algorithms mostly determined by the “most popular” hits, has no direct and immediate feedback loop in real time. Fake news has become popular.
Bees, in their close physical proximity and body space share constant communication. They work quickly…

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United we stand, divided we fall

Giant honey bee (Apis dorsata)
Author Ken Wilbur, recently addressed the critical intersection of human spiritual development that we are facing. He basically said that we have created a society that has lapsed into individualism, narcissism (“my opinion” at the expense of everyone else’s) and nihilism. Over decades, truth has become a casualty of such individualism. I get to define my life’s truth over yours—creating divisions and resentment in our civil society.
In the article he notes that the internet, which was borne as a free flowing international web of information has, as Time Magazine said, become “a sociopath”,  fostering some of our worst behavior, with no real authority to inhibit bad behavior. Google and Facebook’s algorithms mostly determined by the “most popular” hits, has no direct and immediate feedback loop in real time. Fake news has become popular.
Bees, in their close physical proximity and body space share constant communication. They work quickly to bridge the gaps of division, bad behavior and indecision. They listen to their waggle dancers and then choose together the best “waggler”. Ten to eight thousand bees come together in a town hall meeting, to listen to the waggle dancers and choose. Is it the best waggler or the one with the most factoids? Who knows. Maybe a combination of both.
When I saw my first waggle dance, I laughed. Bees vibrate at a rapid speed, but this bee’s butt was going to town. I read up on it. I found out that beehives make decisions together by watching the Waggle Dancer.

If you click on the link, you’ll see a bee waggling, likely relaying information of an amazing nectar flow, or a better zipcode to live, and who knows what else. As Cornell bee geek and scientist, author of “HoneyBee Democracy“, Tom Seeley notes, among species, only humans and bees have the ability to communicate in such specific and detailed ways.  

Honey bee worker feeding queen
In other words, the bee wagglers are good news messengers. Sometimes more than one bee will be presenting a decision to the bee community. It is up to them to pick the best possible solution for the hive.
Clearly, it must be a viable option to support the hive’s ongoing health and survival.

 

Today, the biggest obstacle facing us as citizens of the same country, U.S.A., is to figure out which waggle dancer is calling us to re-weave and heal the fragile bonds of our civil society. Meaning, we must come together as a human community to find solutions that will be decent and life affirming for all. Whom will we follow? Verbal, emotional and spiritual or physical violence will only create further violence and factions.
Bee leadership shows us real leadership. It galvanizes a whole colony and pulls them forward in making good collective decisions.
Real leadership stares into the face of a no-truth, no-
direction, no-values world, and says, “It is simply not true that there is no
truth; there is most definitely truth, and it lies in this
direction”—and it is so radiantly genuine and attractive as it provides a believable path into an uncertain future, that it galvanizes vast numbers to follow it forward. (Ken Wilbur, 49)
In other words, we need some good waggle dancers to show us the way that is not self destructive, that moves us beyond egocentric, ethnocentric, and narcissistic enthusiasms of “my way is the best and only way”, to a “we way”.

The bees are calling us to come together and listen carefully.

United we stand. Divided we fall.

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Peaceful Pink Power

Millions of women marched across time zones on January 21.

Peacefully.

In a remarkable show of soulforce, women came out around the world.

Crowds gather on Jackson Boulevard for the Women's

(Chicago Women’s March, January 21, 2017)

Like the girls of the hive, they were multitudinous. Their voices heard ringing from cities and towns everywhere.

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Amidst of sea of pussy hats

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dear Interplay friend

Creativity was astonishing.

I saw signs of uterus’ held by local midwives(as a midwife friend explained to me, the uterus is the strongest muscle in the human body).

New life comes through women’s bodies.

What are these truths?  Well, here are a few of mine…. peaceful uprisings, unarmed justice, respect for all, reverence, kindness, compassion, death and resurrection.
What are yours?
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Think Like A Bee Hall of Fame

A big thank you to the New Mexico based Lineberry Foundation, who gifted Think Like A Bee with a New Year grant! Honoring the remarkable memory of it’s founders, this family is making New Mexico a better place by their charitable grants—from children to bees. We are grateful for this surprising and Providential grant. It came at the right time!

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We commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. this week, a man whose life lit up the sky for a time. He called us to the hard work of building a community of justice. His spirit still lives through and with us today. We remember him this week, in particular. He calls us from the pages of history to create the Beloved Community now.

“I am still convinced that it is love that makes the world go round, and somehow this kind of love can be a powerful force for social change.” (MLK, Jr. 1964 speech in London, days before accepting the Nobel Peace Prize)

martin luther king jr, civil rights, civil rights leader, black history, nobel peace prize, nobel peace prize winner, 1964

Our goals for the coming year 2017 include:

Jan/Feb. Supporting Wild Friends State Legislative Memorial to label bee friendly products in the state of New Mexico

May-Aug.South Valley summer youth internship program to teach basic beekeeping skills

June ABQ Open Space Pollinator Week extravaganza for families/children to celebrate Burque Bee City USA and Bee Awareness

July-August, evaluate Bee City USA resolution with City of Albuquerque

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Drones in an Age of Excess

I’m not talking about the drones that fly and spy in the sky on search and destroy missions… I’m talking about the drones in the queendom of apis mellifera. Larger in stature than their sisters, they have big heads, no stinger, and eat three times their sisters weight in the hive. The drones only role is to mate with the queen, impart their sperm for the next generations of workers and loll around the hive until the powerful mating instinct pulls them into the air to consummate their powerful urge for sex. Upon mating, they will have done their job.

William Longgood (The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men (NY: NY, W.W. Norton and CO, Inc., 1985) sees the drones as the epitomy of male chauvinism, with their huge bodies taking up space in the hive, no foraging capability or any other helpful qualities around the house, biding time until their lusty day in the sun with the virgin queen. Meanwhile they consume vast amounts of resources that the girls are working tirelessly to provide.

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One of the unfortunate realities (that is, for drones) of honeybee life is the girl’s response to those who become a burden to the hive. They do not tolerate such skull duggery and excess for long. In the end, their luck runs out after mating season is over. The sisters kick out their brothers.

Hamid Bouchickhi wrote an article entitled “Healthy businesses can’t thrive forever in sick societies”. As a Business School professor he has some astute things to say about the increasing illnesses pervading our society— unemployment, precariousness, poverty, dislocation of social and family ties, solitude, suicide, and the rise of xenophobia.

Like any crisis, the one we live in is producing its scapegoat. Instead of addressing the structural problems generated by an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth, professional politicians are convincing the people that their difficulties are caused by immigrants, Muslims, Chinese and other incarnations of Sartre’s famous phrase ‘Hell is the other’…

Because they are at the forefront of wealth creation, economic agents (managers, shareholders, investors, entrepreneurs, workers, union leaders) must fully realize that they cannot prosper for long in a sick society.

We are living in the age of excess.

The highest office in this country will be held by a billionaire with a vast empire of wealth, suddenly given the” keys to the kingdom” and a window into ultimate power. Surrounded by a cabinet, with its own mass of billionaires, they are busily working with a congress to shield public eyes from the marriage of power and Mammon (look it up). Of course, Trump is only the manifestation of decades of eroding transparency around monied interests and power in the halls of Washington D.C. We are now having a mirror held up to see the sickness of greed paired with power which has been growing for a very long time. Back in 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. already identified materialism as one of the 3 evils. Pair that with the absolute power of militarism and racism, it creates a wicked brew that will destroy a society. Unless we stay vigilant as the people….we must all guard our own lives against excess.

The girls know what to do. When such a hunger overtakes the community’s resources, destroying the next generation’s future, they do not stand for it.

Blessed are you, Lord God, who in these your creatures, the bees, grant us a living example of industry and unity of purpose. Pour down your blessing upon them; curb their desire to swarm; grant them freedom from disease and abundance of nectar in the blossom, that by the sweet savor of their honey we may bless you in the joy of festal days. Glory to you, O Lord, glory to you.

—- The Community of the Servants of the Will of God, Crawley, England

 

Bee Dreams for the Next Gen

If there’s one thing I know about bee life, it’s that each generation of bees will sacrifice everything for the next gen. By the time she dies, the worker bee wings will become threadbare and tattered—30 days of hard work for the community, culminating in field work, the pinnacle of selfless service. The queen will lay generation upon generation of eggs until she is barren. Recently I read new findings, which suggest that she is not cast out after her life work, but is quietly retired to the back of the hive to live out her last days peacefully.


These days our youth are rising up and showing us the vision, the sacrifice, the way forward to action for the common good. From Standing Rock to Tiny Houses, the next generation is walking the walk and talking the talk for what we must do to close the gap and create a just society—healthy for our children and our children’s children. They are calling us all to become the beehive, in essence.
Yesterday I listened to a Democracy Now! interview with two great social transformers of the 20th century. Harry Belafonte and Noam Chomsky. Belafonte, whom many of us know as a successful African American entertainer, don’t know that he also fought in WWII. He came home as a decorated serviceman only to find that the country he served was now at war with his own race. The Civil Rights movement would heat up even as the black men in uniform returned, their service lost in Jim Crow. At 90 years old, he is an eloquent speaker. He spoke of the legacy we are handing our children as we face unprecedented, growing chasms between rich and poor— wealth and greed competing for the highest public offices in this country. Monied interests have infected our politics until we can no longer see what’s real.

We have been so contaminated with possessions and power that we have forgotten that we have destroyed our children, or set the tone for that…without people who understand that there’s no sacrifice we can make that is too great to retrieve that which we’ve lost, we will forever be distracted with possessions and trinkets and title.

In 1967, MLK, Jr. had already identified materialism as one of the three evils facing societies. Pair that with the absolute power of militarism and racism, it creates a wicked brew that will destroy a society. Unless we the people stay vigilant…

I remember an old scriptural imperative. Without a vision, the people perish. More than ever, I think it is time to stand with those who have dreams for their future. It is time to listen to those who hunger for truth, a new direction and what is authentic. The next gen is charting the course for that which is life affirming.  It will take all of our courage and fortitude in the face of adversity ahead.

Howard Thurman (1899-1981) Civil Rights leader, author, theologian, professor, philosopher wrote about dreams for the future. It is a simple vision. You don’t have to be astounding , just persistent. Determined. Showing up every day for the next generation. Like the bees.

Keep Alive the Dream in the Heart
The dream in the heart is the outlet…
The dream need not to be some great and overwhelming plan;
It need not be a dramatic picture of what might or must be someday;
It need not be a concrete outpouring of a world shaking possibility of sure fulfillment.
Such may be important for some; such may be crucial for a particular moment in human history

But it is not in these grand ways that the dream nourishes life.
The dream is a quiet persistence in the heart,
That enables us to ride out the storms of our churning experiences.
It is the exciting whisper moving through the aisles of our spirit
Answering the monotony of limitless days of dull routine.
It is the ever-recurring melody in the midst of the broken harmony
And harsh discourse of human conflict.
It is the touch of significance which highlights
The ordinary experience,
The common event.
The dream is no outward thing.

It does not take its rise from the environment
In which one moves or functions.
It lives in the inward parts,
It is deep within, where the issues of life and death are ultimately determined.
Keep alive the dream;
For as long as we have a dream in our heart,
We can not lose the significance of living.

A Dream for the New Year

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?
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Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

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Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

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Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
(Last Night as I Was Sleeping, by Antonio Machado, Spanish poet, 1875-1939)