Life this year has been so fleeting, abstract, isolating. This has also prompted a much needed time of reflection too. Watching the bees, rather than managing the bees I feel vulnerable and yet really connected to something bigger than I can explain. There were no planes in the sky for months and I felt as though nature was breathing with ease, while the dance of life played out through the bees and their abundant spring honey. So fertile and sweet.
Is it because the bee’s lifespan is so short? or because as an ancient species, bees have been making love to flowers since time on this earth began, that they are associated with sexuality and spirituality? As well as the virtues of: Wisdom, industry, good luck. In Egypt, the bees symbolised, birth, death, and resurrection. I can honestly say that my journey through beekeeping has allowed me to connect to many of these motifs.
When I share the experience of opening a beehive at my educational woodland apiary, I do so with reverence and will often hum a chant to ground me to the earth and at the same time lift my soul to a place in time that is separate from day-to-day life. “Where is the queen, where is the queen?”, children will often say, ‘laying her eggs’ I hum, ‘up to 2000 a day’ Such reverence and stillness then flows in as we observe. It was on one such afternoon, after closing the hives and walking away from the apiary that I was stung on my forehead between my eyes. A specific point, known as the 3rd eye, the gateway the mystics believe to higher consciousness.
In that instance I believed the sting that this female sister had left meant, ‘we are not a circus to show off (even to children) use your wisdom when working with us’.
It is only the worker bees that sting and will do so usually in defence and then die. What was strange about this sting was it was very gentle. There was no swelling in my face or forehead either, which was unusual for me.
When I dream about bees it often relates to freeing them or trying to save them. That is also part of my nature of wanting to create a better world for those that don't fit in, for those that are vulnerable or in need. I also think rescue dreams like this link to an anxiety and fear and feeling unsettled.
My realisation at the end of 2020: When I stop busing myself with the constant doing and start beeing, I am more connected to the bees, myself, and the environment. Is this my middle age, 2020 and cupping the trend of mindfulness that is making me and many turn inwards? Or maybe more of that focused bee wisdom creeping in? We and the bees need the sun, the light to navigate through live. Then returning to our hives, our homes and in the case of the bees total darkness. Once again when faced with the fear of darkness and at times depression in myself I am learning to stay focus, and now more than ever listening to the breath, closing the eyes and focusing on that third eye.
When faced with the death of a bee colony (as often it is the fittest that survive) it is easy for me as a beginner beekeeper of 4 years to blame myself). Guilt after all sits well with being female. I feel grief and then get over it with more 'doing'.
I name my hives after females (both women and children) that I have known who have died. This year the Bella hive collapsed. There were a handful of dead worker bees on the hive floor and honey stores left. It was most strange, and yet more and more beekeepers are finding this where the bees just disappear. This is not from swarming either, there is no sign of the development of a queen egg.
I brought Bella hive home, named after a bold brave 14 year old girl, but could not look at the hive for weeks. Then one day in early December I gathered up all the dead bees and took them back to the woods on a warm winters morning and lit a fire. I mourned for the bees and the environment and COVID-19 and felt lonely and lost. It started to rain. Then I sang Bella’s name, again and again like a prayer as I offered the bees to the fire…Bella's name rung through the woods as the last of her colony were given to the flames.
All felt well again and a sense of life's cycles and our belonging.
I will take this little prayer with me into next year.
I will need these sentiments for sure moving forward with selling our Potions to fund our educational work. I want to be able to sit with the bees and young people and show them teach them what I have learnt to support our connections with ecology, ourselves and the planet.
This is lovely, Katherine! I have just started to read Song of Increase by Jacqueline Freeman, which is lovely too, have you read it? Hope you and Stuart are surviving in this madness. Dawn and I send our love and hope that we can one day come and visit your hives, with the bees blessing.
Here’s to a peaceful new year! x