Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 4556
Age Group: Adult
Posted: April 8th. 2002
Runs With Bees
Bees generally get a bad rap from most people. They think 'bee' and then their minds fly almost immediately to 'ouch'! Yeah, well there are probably a lot of people that you know whose very name prompts the same reaction. Some of them may have earned that reputation because they tend to sting first and ask questions later. Bees are much more sensible than that.
Honeybees are really nice folk. For one thing, they mind their own business. Secondly, they don't go looking for trouble. Now right there you have two sterling qualities that you probably wish more people would emulate. Honeybees are also very focused (Your boss would like that one.) and productive (Also a big resume plus). They make a good solid product and they have been in the same business for tens of thousands of years. They don't even really mind sharing the fruits of their labor if you know how to properly ask.
Man and bee have created a nice little partnership over the centuries. From the very moment that some primitive man or woman first plopped a finger sticky with wild honey into his or her mouth, they had us hooked. Free samples have always been a staple of good marketing technique. So, after fighting off a cave bear or two, our ancient ancestors decided it would be much better for both man and bee if we just took them home with us. And we have been cohabitating ever since.
If you happen to like 'chick flicks', then you have probably seen the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes. In this tale, the lead character, Idgie, is a 'bee charmer'. A bee charmer is allegedly a person who can 'speak' to bees and, without any other special equipment or protective clothing, can talk them out of some honey without getting stung. The scene where Idgie reaches into a wild hive and scoops out a jar of dripping golden sweetness for her friend, Ruth, is both a beautiful and a powerful one. Idgie, humming softly, was soon covered from head to foot with thousands of bees. But they flew off as she walked slowly back to Ruth.
"Here you are, Madame, this is for you. Just think, Ruth, I never did it for anybody else before. Now nobody in the whole world knows I can do that but you. I just wanted for us to have a secret together, that's all."
Ruth, in tears, replies, "My Idgie's a bee charmer. That's what you are." "I've heard there were people who could do it, but I'd never seen one before today."
Well, I have.
Ten years ago or so, New England suffered a long and very dry summer. I kept three birdbaths- two on pedestals, one on the ground- for the various and sundry local birds and critters since many of the usual watering spots were totally dried up. One morning when I got out the water jug to refill the basins, I found a group of unexpected visitors. Wing-to-wing honeybees encircled the entire wide brim of the backyard birdbath. As one would drink her fill and load up with some water drops to take back to the hive (they sprinkle the water around and then beat their wings to produce some natural air conditioning), another would take her place. There must have been hundreds of them. And a very polite bunch of ladies, they were, too. No jostling. No bee kneeing each other out of the way. Just a nice orderly queue of yellow and black fuzzy hummers waiting patiently in line at the water bubbler. These visits continued for weeks. And the bees did not only fascinate my daughter, Skye, she became enchanted by them.
The next day, as I was just barely on my second cup of coffee, she came in from the back yard. Humming innocently to herself (always a warning sign) she opened up the cupboard and before my not quite open eyes proceeded to smear honey (from that little plastic bear bottle thing) onto her arms and face. She followed that up with a good dowsing of sugar water from a glass that she had apparently pre-mixed earlier. Now living with a teenage daughter, one quickly learns not to ask too many silly questions. But curiosity got the better of me this time. The words- "Uh...whatcha doin'?" - came out of my mouth before I could stop them. She just looked up and grinned. "Wanna see something cool?" she asked.
The other thing that one learns when one lives with a teenage daughter is that, as a general rule much like that of 'don't ask; don't tell', one usually does not want to see anything that the aforementioned daughter thinks is 'cool'. But I must have been feeling particularly foolhardy that day because I said, "Okay." And so, fortified with another cup of coffee, I followed her out of the door and out onto the patio. "Wait here and watch this," she said. "Oh yeah. Promise me you won't freak." With those encouraging words, she tripped down the steps. I sat down and practiced my not freaked Mom face. I actually thought that I had the proper mildly interested look nailed down for a minute there. I never got to use it. No matter. What I saw next really called for something more along the lines of utter astonishment anyway.
Skye was standing in front of the birdbath with arms outstretched and face tilted up towards the sun. Within seconds, she was covered with hungry and thirsty little honeybees. To my credit, I didn't screech or faint. I did have to close my mouth by applying a firm upward pressure to my chin however. My little charmer was wearing a living honeybee suit. Okay, it turned out that it indeed was pretty cool. And quite fashionable really: A yellow and black striped suit that hummed. She never once- during that day or on any of the other days that summer when she repeated this impromptu banquet table act- got stung. Not a single nip. She did however take a lot of showers. And her complexion never looked better. I think standing out there in the yard being licked and nuzzled by hundreds of honeybees did something for her both emotionally and spiritually. Whenever we speak of it, a sort of dreamy look comes over her face. I guess the charming spell works both ways. And, much to my surprise, it also worked on me.
You see, my own mother is very allergic to bee stings. The need to get a shot or swell up and die sort of allergic to bee stings. And I grew up seeing my mother batting bees away and screaming and running way from them. So I learned by proxy to have a fear of bees, too. Even though I had never been stung myself, my heart would start pumping if I even heard a buzz. I realized intellectually that I had no reason to be afraid of bees. I knew it was irrational; I just couldn't help it. It was a learned and conditioned reflex inherited from my mother. But I knew that I absolutely didn't want to pass along that irrational fear to Skye. So I worked through it bit by bit over the years and I finally got myself to the point where I could share space with bees and not dissolve into a quivering puddle of fear.
As Skye was growing up, I explained to her all of the good things that bees do that help humankind and what a service that they provide. And that if you don't hurt them, they won't hurt you. All true enough. But this was a bit of bravado on my part as I wasn't actually at the point where I could hug a bee. The generational ghost was still haunting me, but I did do my very best not to pass it along. And while I couldn't completely break that final link in the chain of fear myself, Skye did. And watching her feed the bees that morning, I realized that I was finally set free myself.
There are a lot of things out there in the world that can hurt us. And there are many bad things that occur in families or in relationships the memories of which we carry like the pain of bee stings within ourselves. And for the most part, these are things that we don't want to pass along to another generation. But it is hard to eliminate them completely; it is difficult to heal ourselves all at once. But, the good news is, we don't always have to be the one who does all of the work. We just have to do the part of the work that we can do. And if we do just that part of it that we can do, there will come others who can do the rest. And then the cycle-whether it been of abuse or anger or fear or aggression- will be broken.
So many years later when we learned that Skye had brain cancer, I was very, very afraid of losing my only child. But Skye wasn't afraid. She always knew that no matter what happened, she would be okay. Somehow, she just knew it. Just like she somehow knew on that certain summer morning that the bees wouldn't sting her. Maybe the bees told her. Maybe they still tell her things that bees only tell to those with whom they have shared the charm. I'm not a part of the bee charmer inner circle myself. But I do know-as hard as it was to do at the time- that I helped to draw that circle.
Just as I know that some things-- hope-- love-- courage-- taste very much like wild honey upon the tongue.
Walk in Love and Light,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, April 8th., 2002
PS: Our friend, Tavara, recommends these web sites for more information about bees and beekeeping:
Image credit: The "Bee" image used for our anchor photo was taken by Michael Myers and is used with permission. Visit the Michael Meyers Website at http://www.netaxs.com/~mhmyers/index.html.
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