These days, to stay sane in these times of spiking COVID 19, I pull out happy memories of travel. In May 2019, Kenneth and I made a pilgrimage to our holy honeymoon grounds in southeastern Utah— Red rocks country.
Bluff, Utah is home to a year round population of about 320. There’s the locals, fiercely committed to this land. Then there’s a smattering of river guides, archeologists, anthropologists, artists and students who scrabble out a living on the edge of Navajo country.
In Bluff we stayed at the Recapture lodge, renown as a hospitality center for the stories of legendary western writer, Tony Hillerman.
We visited Comb Ridge Eat and Drink restaurant. Our favorite fare. We visited Liza at Calf Canyon store, filled with beautiful Zuni and Navajo jewelry, fetishes and art. Liza was a favorite character in Bluff, and we could always get the low down on recent developments between conservationists and the fossil fuel industry, hellbent on acquiring as much land as possible. Our admiration for Liza was deep. She was a can-do woman, sturdy, cheerful, sun tanned and a lifelong voice for the land and waters. Her deceased husband, James Ostler, an anthropologist with the fabled Zuni fetish makers, left her the business and she was now taking care of their son with special needs, full-time. Her gourmet restaurant had long ago closed.
This year there was a new kid on the block. Bears Ears Visitor Center. An interpretive and information center for this sacred place of the Indigenous people. It told the story of a national land monument carved to smithereens by the trump administration, then served on a platter to oil and gas interests.
#visitwithrespect is the hashtag. My t-shirt and a bumper sticker remind me of this very special place, and to keep the faith for a return of this land.
Seems to be at the bottom of a lot of problems in our country today. Or perhaps I should say… the lack of.
Those who refuse to wear a mask as ICU’s are overflowing and medical workers are dying from COVID. Those who brutalize brown and black people. Those who drill and destroy sacred indigenous ancestral lands for a profit. Those who believe their religious belief and skin color is supreme.
Last week, I learned a hard lesson with my bees. Again. I waited too long to harvest honey. With the intense temperatures, some of the honeycomb had collapsed in the hive. I had neglected them. Now, I was raiding their stores. In my usual manner, I did not don gloves before I put my hands in the hive. I know my bees. I rarely get stung. But as the collapsed honeycomb split and spilled open during removal, the bees began to drown. Frantic to protect their community…let’s just say, I sustained damages.
Because the distance between a bee’s stinger and my hands in the hive is so short, I usually am very respectful. But this time I failed them. They got my attention.
Bee friends, tired of being “sheltered in place”? Have you watched tv until you can no longer digest all that information? Are you sick of puzzles, games, twiddling your thumbs, quarreling, sitting in your own backyard and living room? Expand your horizons! Join us in the garden and backyards of many people and places. Spark your imagination and give your family a treat! THIS WEEK is the 4th annual Pollinator Week festival for Burque Bee City USA. It’s extra special because it is all virtual this year! Albuquerque is the only Bee City USA certified in the Southwest region.
Yes. You can tune in to any of the sessions from far and distant lands! See the event calendar here— with a worm’s (or bee’s?) eye look at the each of the events happening daily!
To kick us off, tomorrow first thing, Wednesday June 24, Dr. Olivia Carril, New Mexico’s very own native bee specialist, will talk about these beautiful, magical, most excellent pollinators that are often not seen. Fairy bees. Carpenter bees. Sweat bees. Long horned bees. Bumble bees. They come in mesmerizing colors, with very specialized functions. They are shy creatures. All but the bumblers don’t sting!
Think Like A Bee will be live on Saturday! Hands in the Hive! with Amy Owen, live footage from her honeybee hive check. Followed by the Documentary about the importance of watersheds and protecting them. Come and visit Lorenzo Candelaria’s farm, where his family has lived continuously for over 300 years, to learn about food and bees and water. In New Mexico, water is precious. Water is life.
Special flashlight version of night pollinators in the Garden with Kaitlin Haase of Xerces/Bee City USA, Lara Lovell in the backyard with bees and showing you bee art! Pollinator tours and all things bugs both at the Bio Park and Open Space Visitors Center.
And music! BéBé La La, an Americana Folk group on Friday night, and Saturday afternoon with Seth Hoffman, live from Haifa Israel!
Bee Geeks Unite! Come on down in for lots of family fun, entertainment and education of all things pollinator!
This weekend is Solstice! On this auspicious day, June 20, 2020 10am Mountain Time, come and join a virtual interview from the Bachechi Open Space with Director, Marnie Rehn, and Anita Amstutz of Think Like A Bee. What are watersheds for and why are they important for bees and food?
“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.”
In the wee hours of the morning my husband and I drove slowly up the east back of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico. Halfway up, I spotted a tiny rainbow colored figure along the side of the road. “Oh no!”, I cried. “A Western tanager”. Just the week before, my friend and I had hiked through this area, marveling at the brightly colored plumage disappearing into the tree canopy, their call indistinguishable from the common Robin.
As we always do, when we see a limp and lifeless or hurt creature on the side of this mountain road, we pull the car over and move the little being to safety, try to offer kindness. With a heavy heart I approached the broken body, it’s eyes already glassy and it’s beak barely moving as it tried to swim to the surface for oxygen, it’s neck broken.
I held this still warm, magical and magnificent being in the palm of my hand, sobbing inconsolably. Somewhere from deep inside, I offered compassion, a prayer of thanksgiving for this brilliant little bird and it’s short sojourn on the planet. Clearly it had collided with a fast moving car.
We had not started the journey like this. Eager for a day away from “sheltering in place”, I was reading to my husband from the recent Summer 2020 issue of Parabola: The Search for Meaning. We wondered and chatted about the stories, “On the Way to Presence”. “When I went from my head to my heart everything was Love“, wrote Ram Dass in his final days. It was a relaxed and joyful way of being together.
And suddenly this.
Life is like that. Constant portals, moving us between life and death. Death and life. Suffering and joy. Peace and fury. Love and despair.
As I hiked, I found my feet pounding the soft dirt trail, as grief gave way to blind rage. All the ecosystems destroyed and dying from human ignorance, darkened imaginations and profit-driven greed. The orangutan orphans in the forests of Borneo, Indonesia and Malaysia, their terrified mothers shot as the saws rip down their forest home for fancy furniture or palm oil in our fossil fuel drenched western lifestyles. Massive windowed skyscrapers full of unnatural light in Dallas at night, millions of tiny bodies of migrating birds littering the streets at their feet—caught in their strange reflections. Native bees disappearing before our eyes as Caterpillar machinery gobbles up native plants, paving over the high desert as wealthy Texans move to New Mexico suburbs. The genocide of millions of soft furry bodies beside our national roads as speeding cars blindly run over them, ignorant of their immense suffering and slow moving lives.
My furious rage and grief over this one tiny creature spilled over and suddenly became all the untimely human deaths in the past 3 weeks. Of two beloved women in my circle— sensitive beings of light, art, song, poetry and compassion. And the pandemic, still claiming millions of lives.
Though human suffering is untold, my task it seems, is to grieve and honor the voiceless, silent disappearing non-human species, even as the humans weep for their own. So much loss.
Walk through the world with care, my love And sing the things you see Let new names take and root and thrive and grow And even as you stumble through machair sands eroding Let the fern unfurl your grieving, let the heron still your breathing Let the selkie swim you deeper, oh my little silver-seeker Even as the hour grows bleaker, be the singer and the speaker And in city and in forest, let the larks become your chorus And when every hope is gone, let the raven call you home
Spell Songs/The Lost Words(based upon the brilliant and ancient Carmina Gaedelica, a Celtic book of nature prayers, poems, songs and liturgies)
Even so, in this season of weeping, hope comes to me in the form of a what I think is a rusty patched bumblebee in the mountain altitudes. My Xerces friend says my rusty rumped bee is not exactly this extinct bumblebee. Yet, I imagine that there is still one or many in the wild. I will believe.
So as death rises around us like a tsunami, we all are called to weep. To lament.
My friend Phyllis offers this beautiful prayer/poem for humans as they suffer loss and weep…
3 AM Mountain Standard Time
Stranger—You in the lighted window
on the third floor.
Did virus dreams nudge you awake?
Young mother in Iowa-
This isn’t what you imagined.
Your infant, cradled,
as you long to share the smell of her sweet head
with others you love.
Your fears are closing around you,
the virus only third on your list
of pressing concerns.
So many in the house, you alone awake.
Your ancestors come to you with soft murmurings of
past pandemics. So much weight.
You fall asleep at last to the heavy breathing of your cousin’s child.
Capitol City politician-
With vague unrest at 3 am,
Pondering where you missed the boat,
the heavy touch of your bad judgement.
Dairy farmer in Wisconsin-
Too early to get up now,
too dark yet even for the birds.
Who will buy your milk?
The smell of spring comes through your open window.
At least there’s that.
Young teen in the city-
Was it the siren that awakened you?>
You wonder if this is the sound of your future.
Will you never have the chance to drink too much at a crowded
party—bodies dancing, pressed together?
A light in a cabin in Alaska-
no one to see it but the wandering moose.
You’re good at isolation.
But you worry if you will ever be touched again.
You in Baton Rouge-
Sleep is just returning to you in the moist heat of night,
accompanied by cricket sound.
Would you ask the crickets to send some sleep my way?
Now it’s 5 am Mountain time.
My poem has been written.
The restless ones on East Coast time
have started their day,
nighttime worries dissolving in sunlight.
I will take myself and my poem back to bed.
And wait for the coming light to
bleach my dark hour
and birth my hope again.
Phyllis Bergman, May 2,2020
I will continue to hike in the mountains, pound off the rage burning in my thighs, bring oxygen to my grief filled lungs, bind up my hurt heart with trees and birdsong and sweet perfumed scents of Ponderosa pine. I will continue to look for the lost and dying in the creaturely world and mourn them…
And I will expect to see the extinct rusty patched bumble bee someday.
Thus entitled was the April 2020 The Rolling Stone’s issue that featured Greta Thunberg and all things climate change. The children’s issue.
Is it as bad as they claim? It’s worse. From bugapocalypse to acidifying of the oceans to the extinction of a million species. Viruses are only a new expression of climate change and the decimation of the chain of life. It is a wake up call for the profit driven death machinery that political leaders and corporate culture continue to serve. Issues of food and water security loom.
But I know you will stop right here, dear reader, if I continue on this trajectory.
We are a people of hope. We cannot let it lead to hopioid, a false addictive belief, but ultimately to right action in the world. All great social movements have been about ordinary people moving out into the public square. These days our public square is the world wide internet.
A few things are needed for these times. Vitamins for civic life, to keep us robust.
This radiant, shining planet earth and all her inhabitants call us to a deeper affection of place, more than ever, in these 9th hour, ground zero, 21st century Covid time. We will not save what we do not love (Baba Dioum, Senegalese forestry engineer, 1968). The natural world is one of the few places open to humans for solace, peace, life giving joy, in these pandemic times. Foster that love by being with earth in all her myriad forms—from backyard to park to wild places, to night sky.
Geese appear high over us, pass, and the sky closes. Abandon, as in love or sleep, holds them to their way, clear in the ancient faith: what we need is here. And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear. What we need is here.
What we need is here, Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press, 1998)
We need a wall of lament for those we love—all our relations who might soon be extinct due to climate change and our carefully protected fossil fuel carbonized lifestyles…
Extinction Rebellion, begun in the U.K. was founded on the power of civil disobedience as social transformation. “If society is going to change as drastically and urgently as we need it to, some level of painful disruption seems necessary.” (Rolling Stone, April 2020, p. 59) They use the greatest tool available to humanity for social change. Mass civil disobedience…not with angry fury, but creative collective action, involving “crowds of people planting trees, singing songs and waving colorful flags. ” (Rolling Stone, April 2020, p. 97)
Fortunately, Mother Nature has intervened. She is helping us with social disruption. We are cocooned, socially distanced, quarantined, masked, grounded from our carbon lifestyles. For those not on the front lines, most are congregated in our own little “sheltering” oases. We cannot move en masse out onto the streets. But for those hidden away in our homes and ‘hoods, we are growing our civic consciousness. As Rebecca Solnit -writes
When a caterpillar enters its chrysalis, it dissolves itself, quite literally, into liquid. In this state, what was a caterpillar and will be a butterfly is neither one nor the other, it’s a sort of living soup. Within this living soup are the imaginal cells that will catalyse its transformation into winged maturity. May the best among us, the most visionary, the most inclusive, be the imaginal cells – for now we are in the soup. The outcome of disasters is not foreordained. It’s a conflict, one that takes place while things that were frozen, solid and locked up have become open and fluid – full of both the best and worst possibilities. We are both becalmed and in a state of profound change.
“The Impossible has already happened: What the CoronaVirus Can Teach us About Hope”, by Rebecca Solnit, The Guardian, April 7, 2020
The bees also tell me about this new way of being…
In early April, I caught a swarm on a bush. Vulnerable. Their future uncertain. Their bellies gorged with the sweet elixir of honey and dreams for their new home, they set out on a journey. I put them into a hive and left them alone for a month. Every now and then I would peek inside the glass window. There all I could see was a vibrating orb of honeybees dangling there in a massive pulsing ball in the center of the hive. After a month, I opened them up. Inside was a hive, from front to back, filled with beautifully formed combs, brood and bees. It was surreal to see how quickly that had filled that box up to perfection. And now, after “sheltering in place” together for a month, they were ready to be split. Busting at the seams for change, you might say.
So, friends of bees and all, keep company, cocoon, prepare for metamorphosis, transformation.
These days it seems the whole planet is on a vision quest together. Some more aware of this than others—that we cannot, will not be able to go back to the “way things are”. When things were spinning so fast, we couldn’t jump off if we wanted to. Now we’ve all debarked. Together. For those who aren’t on the front lines, our hands have been forced.
I read recently that geologists note the earth is “standing still” . There is less vibration from human activity. Perhaps Mother Earth is finally able to be quiet. How beautiful is that?
We’re sitting, waiting with the earth. Some are listening for the sound of the new world we must create. Some are spending beautiful time with their families. Some are struggling to survive, still working, still in danger. Some are twiddling their thumbs, hoping for business as usual. Some have taken to the street with guns, signs, threats, demanding that their “way of life” be returned.
But for those who have ears to hear, a new world is starting to buzz, quietly. A world where humans are no longer the destroyers, but the healers, the co-creators, the hive mind. Working together. Creating a place where every being belongs. Everyone has enough. Every living thing is shown dignity.
Recently, while I wasn’t paying attention, our city was plunged into freezing temperatures overnight. After days and days of sunshine and warming temperatures, one night the rains came and the world plunged into a world of ice and snow on the mountain top, frost on all living things on this high desert floor.
I woke up one morning to find all my budding fruit, apricots, cherries, blackened by the cold. I grieved the loss, along with everything else I’ve lost these days—community music, employment, social gatherings, restaurants, face time in real time, hugs, the ease of going to the grocery, or meeting a friend for tea without a mask.
Oddly, I noticed up the street, my neighbor’s 50+ year old mature apricot tree which I admire every year (actually, I confess I sneak a few of those round orange globes every summer)had no frost damage. I noted the way all the fruits is clustered near the ground level, how full of leaves and mature this elder tree is. So protective and fully grown.
The apricot tree reminded me that our culture has some growing up to do. This mature, seasoned, adaptive, and resilient tree knows how to navigate a deep freeze, unexpectedly. Most creatures that live outdoors continuously do not expect a life of “easy street”. They have everything they need in their environmentally adapted genetics. I note that a few of my beehives have also weathered seasons, making them my “resilient” stock— adaptive to New Mexico’s unpredictable and harsh climate changes and yes, mites. As much as I also grieved the loss of all but 2 of my hives this past year, I am learning from the ones that survived.
Those who, with modest means, have survived intact through adversity, pandemics, weather catastrophes, Economic depressions and recessions have some wisdom for these times—both human and creaturely.
I see people offering neighborly kindnesses and support in many large and small ways to buoy each other up these days. The following poem was sent by someone who offers a free on-line yoga studio each week for anyone who tunes in. Thank you Meta. You are keeping me balanced. It was one more reminder that we are not alone in the Universal memory or story. This has happened before…for instance the pandemics of 1869 and 1918. We know what to do. Take care of one another.
This reminds us that we can reimagine this time.
By Kitty O’Meara (2020) And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.
It appears that nature continues on. Unabated. Oblivious, in a way, to the human drama unfolding.
Today on my solo, socially distanced walk in the neighborhood, I heard the familiar loud buzzy sound that honeybees make when swarming. My mentor TJ Carr always said that Palm Sunday was THE time for bee swarms to begin.
Looking up towards a pine tree as tall as a 12 story building, I watched a crescendo of bees whirling, swirling slowly upward. It was as though they were Elijah’s chariot come to transport him home to the heavens. A graceful and coordinated spiral, which appeared at first chaotic, they suddenly made a bee-line to the very top branch of that tree. It was though they had evaporated. As hard as I tried, I could not see where the pulsing orb of their sisters hung high in the tree tops. I would’ve needed a telescope.
This swarm would not be mine.
Last week, I received a call on the road. My husband and I rarely venture out these days except on bikes or foot. Kenneth had called from the West Side of Albuquerque for a pick up. His bike had a flat tire. On the way, I received another exciting phone call. A bee swarm had landed next door to the Rio Grande Co-op market in a low bush. Would I pick them up for my friend’s beeyard? Of course. I hadn’t had this much excitement to punctuate the homogeneity of my days for quite awhile.
Picking up a swarm for a beekeeper feels like the exhilaration and anticipation of the hunt. The good news is, nothing has to give up their life. Well, that’s the hope.
On this particular day, I pulled into the parking lot of the co-op where Dunia and her 6 year old son waited with eyes glowing above their face masks. The wonder of bees and children.
The security person kept a fair distance. We waited for our friends, slated to bring their box of beekeeping tools, to safely carry the honeybee swarm to their new digs.
Despite my assurance that bees are most docile in this state, gorged with honey, disoriented as they wait for the word to their new home, least likely to attack— everyone kept a safe distance.
What happened next, ripped a dull gash in our excited expectation.
A truck pulled up, screeched to a stop, and a man on oxygen in the front seat, in a state of undress, rolled down his window and began to yell that these were “his bees’. His two young daughters piled out and began to gear up. We were still waiting for our backup. He was clearly not going to get out of the truck, perhaps was not able to. Instead he threatened us from the cab.
The co-op manager came out to join the fray, stating he had called this man’s bee outfit from the East mountains, at least 45 minutes ago. He had found their website.
Just then, my friends rolled up, and began to unload their bee tools. Their eyes widened as the angry words reached a crescendo.
Finally, I calmly took the swarm box, still without any beesuit or protection, and began to gently nudge the ball of bees into the box. The cloud of anger that wrapped us so tightly that air was being squeezed out of our lungs‚—nevermind COVID 19— began to recede. The Co-op manager and my friends stepped up to help. A bee chased the child and he began to scream as his mother herded him in their car. I entered my own bubble. I was in that charmed state of absolute focus and calm and contemplation that accompanies my forays into the hive. The words flying around me became like the muted voice of the teacher in Charlie Brown. Background noise.
Before I knew it, somewhere on the periphery of my awareness, the man’s daughters had packed up. Throwing a final insult at myself, my friends and the manager, the unhappy group of bee swarm hopefuls drove off. We captured the last of the bees and happily hived them in a fruit tree paradise at my friend’s home. The next day they were dancing in the orchard and making beautiful combs.
I was left with the question…did I do the right thing? Should I have walked away? Given them up? Do bees really “belong” to anyone? This man thought so. Clearly he was in it for the biz. In the world of volunteer beekeepers, swarms are usually first come, first serve—unless of course there is an elegant and coordinated system of sharing, such as the Albuquerque Beekeepers (In Albuquerque, Call CABQ #311).
Meanwhile, there is an urgency of the bees in this season, as they swarm to new homes. Maybe there will be more parking lot fights over swarms. Bee keepers are intensely competitive about gathering swarms. Tempers are at a peak with the lockdown. Oh, such human folly, our need to possess the bees. Or, to possess anything.
I don’t have much else to say about this little bee tale. No wise words of wisdom or crystal clarity about “how to think like a bee”. Mostly I impart this story to let you know that it is honeybee swarm season. The bees will be right on time. They will do their thing to the best of their ability, despite plagues and firestorms and hurricanes and drought.
And if you see one dangling in your backyard from a branch, or your neighbor’s tree, please call a beekeeper who is local. The first one there deserves first dibs.
Years ago I met a man at a writing workshop who had also come under the enchanting spell of honeybees. He had begun to keep bees at a time when unbeknownst to the average beekeeper, a deadly scourge had begun to spread among the beehives.
During the winter of 2006-2007, some beekeepers began to report unusually high losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. As many as 50 percent of all affected colonies demonstrated symptoms inconsistent with any known causes of honey bee death:
**Sudden loss of a colony’s worker bee population with very few dead bees found near the colony.
**The queen and brood (young) remained, and the colonies had relatively abundant honey and pollen reserves.
As beekeepers would come to find out. Honeybee hives cannot sustain themselves without worker bees and would eventually die. This combination of events resulting in the loss of a bee colony was called Colony Collapse Disorder.
The most immediate killer would eventually be identified as Varroa Mite, evidently imported from Asia, where bees had learned to adapt. But for the European honeybee, they were defenseless.
Though, as 40+ year bee researcher Mark Winston has said, it’s not just one thing that is killing the bees, it’s “a thousand little cuts”, including habitat pollution and destruction, chemicals and our industrialized agricultural system which assaults bees regularly with glyphosate/herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, GMO’s, and practices that destroy any natural habitat in lieu of big subsidized mono-crops such as corn, soy, barley, wheat, etc.
This man told me his story with tears in his eyes. Where he lived, in Ohio, state governments grappled with too little information and an increasing epidemic of hives infected with varroa mites(which literally attach to a baby bee in the nest and suck the juices out of them over their lifespan, causing parasitic wing deformation and other diseases). Without knowing what was infecting honeybees or how it could impact the bee industry, they finally advised all beekeepers to set their hives on fire to stop the spread.
The man told me of his young son who eagerly asked to go with his dad that day to visit the hives. When the father told him to stay home and why, the child bravely said he “wanted to be with the bees”, even in their hour of death. They wept together as the father sealed the hives and poured gasoline on the hives and set them on fire.
Today, I can hardly bear to write this story. It makes my heart ache and my stomach churn.
As beekeepers, we know the rest of the story…
We no longer destroy our hives. We have learned to live with the decimation of our hives, the 40-55% losses each winter. We have learned to get back up each Spring and try again with what we have left. Honeybees continue to fly and swarm and pollinate—though there are way fewer.
The race is on. Can honeybees evolve and even adapt to mitigate all the disastrous things they face from human practices, lowered immune systems and the dreaded varroa mites? Can bee research make genetic advances that will assist?
Varroa is no different than COVID 19 virus. It is the to the bee family what the Bubonic plague, SARS or MERS or any epidemic virus has been to humanity. The global family, like the honeybees of the 20th century, is rendered defenseless against such potent viruses. They come as silent killers, invisible initially to the eye, but it can take apart the whole Hive. Viruses, like varroa, are clever and adaptable and mutational.
In this COVID 19 pandemic, like the Varroa mite, when human governments don’t know what we’re dealing with, the worst possible measures or lack of measures, are first applied.
What, I wonder, is the wisdom of the hive, the ability to Think Like A Bee, in our own hour of a deadly scourge for the global human family? As we will increasingly face what bees and other creatures have already faced due to the absolute degradation of our environment, what can we learn?
I have more questions than answers these days…but I have observed a few things from my years of being mentored by the bees.
We are all interconnected. For many years now, beekeepers have been saying, “Bees are the canaries in the mine”. Actually all living beings have been mirroring back to us signs and signals of what is coming…what is visited on one planetary community member will eventually affect us all. We are not immune from each other’s ills. In a sense, the future is here. All the assaults and insults we have visited upon our planetary immune system have ravaged not only her, but the immune response of all creatures and beings that depend upon her. Climate change and pathogen spillover is real, according to Dr. Michelle Barry of Stanford Global Health Center. Climate change, deforestation and changing ecology is happening. Animal and human ecology is colliding as humans invade and dismantle ecological communities.
Hive mind is the only way through this. We can no longer act as isolated entities. Actually, we must work as inter-species, humans and the natural world, acting together to solve the ills assailing us. I have tried to assist my bees to strengthen their immune system as a hive, I have tried to mitigate the varroa and other terrifying assaults on bees by keeping them in places where farming practices are organic and life affirming. Where all life is honored. Not just humans. How can we as humans listen to our natural systems for wisdom — how they are organized, their resilience and adaptation? How can we listen to other human communities besides our own tribal affiliations as we seek answers together?
Collaboration. Whether viruses or varroa, we have the information together to help and heal the whole. Think Funghi and bacteria. The plant and living organism world has answers for us, and we as humans can offer safe harbor for all living beings from our backyards to our agricultural, forests and wilderness areas. We can act with deep respect and reverence in relationship with the rich biotic community that we humans live within. We are only one building block of the whole network. We all depend upon the web of life.
Gratitude. In a time of COVID 19, everything we receive is abundance. Sharing and not hoarding is critical. I am humbly aware that the gifts of the hive are ostensibly free of charge. Honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, even stings to boost my immune system. Yet, without gratitude, I will exploit, take for granted, take more than my share and not understand that these gifts are not free, ultimately. They require bee size back-breaking work and commitment from the hive to be sustainable for the whole community.
Social Distancing in the hive is not possible with honeybees. They literally live on top of one another and swap spit regularly. But we have learned that too many bees crammed into beeyards with poor conditions, lead to sharing of parasitic mite disease, mites and all kinds of other diseases. Spacing out hives allows them room to be healthy and safe, to thrive. It is a paradigm shift for how we care for our human communities—that we all become “haves” of good housing, healthcare, community resources, clean air, water and food.
The good news is, I still get to visit my bees, and actually all of nature is open to visitors in this time of social quarantining, or “cloistering” as my pastor calls it. It’s a good time to think together about this “new normal”. It is a time of paying attention and being more deeply present to our interior lives and our families, our neighbors. It is a time to put into place new practices as a human family. One that honors all living communities.
Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.” – E. O. Wilson
It is the season of crocuses, bee swarms, longer days and the return of the migrating birds.
Even as we are quarantined and more and more isolated from our daily human connections and habits, earth still awaits us. There is solace in green spaces and with the wild ones.
I visited my bee hives this past week. I determined that 5 of 7 were indeed gone. I harvested the honey and cleaned the hives and celebrated the bursting bees in the south valley. They are my hope.
So, even as all of our worlds have shrunk, driving us to become relentlessly local, I’m also finding it has expanded with new ideas and creative imaginings for how to live in these times. With colleagues, friends and family, I am finding hope as we birth new strategies for this Great Turning…a shift from an Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization.
I want to close with the words from Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).
A doctor of the church, she wrote about something called Veriditas or “greening power“. Also known as Saint Hildegard and the Sibyl of the Rhine, she was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She is one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, as well as the most-recorded in modern history. She has been considered by many in Europe to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.(Wikipedia)
Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly.
The earth is at the same time mother, She is mother of all that is natural
Mother of all that is human.
She is the mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all.
Glance at the sun, see the moon and the stars.Gaze at the beauty of Earth’s greenings.
Now think, what delight God gives to humankind with all these things
All nature is at the disposal of humankind
we are to work with her
For without her we cannot survive.
Bee well and keep your eyes and heart open to the miracles of “greening power”.
Thank you Bee City USA/Xerces Society, for this invaluable and timely article.
(Photo: Xerces Society / Jennifer Hopwood)
The vast majority of invertebrates serve vitally important roles in a healthy environment, including controlling pests, pollinating flowering plants, and providing food for other wildlife. Only a very small number of invertebrates are pests. Yet, the pesticides designed to control unwanted plants and animals rarely distinguish between beneficial invertebrates and those which cause harm. All too often pesticides cause unintended consequences and disrupt the natural systems that sustain us. But, because pesticides are valued for their toxicity to pests, the risks they pose are often accepted—even when healthier, more sustainable options are available.
As part of the Xerces Society’s conservation efforts we strive to reduce reliance on pesticides by supporting the diverse systems that reduce pest problems. Xerces’ staff is sought after to translate complex science so that farmers, backyard gardeners, agency staff, and policy makers can make informed decisions about pesticide use and regulation. And by providing on-the-ground technical support we are increasing the adoption of ecologically sound pest management practices everywhere.