I became a beekeeper in the middle of a difficult career situation. When I was finally offered a contract after months of training with a new company, I discovered that not only was job far different from what I was lead to believe, but it involved working with hostile coworkers who plotted my employment demise at every turn. And then there were the heroin addicts and thieves that necessitated weekly calls the to police….
Each night I arrived home so exhausted that I could hardly haul myself out of the car, dump my backpack on the floor and walk into the garden. My body hurt, my heart ached and my throat was blocked with unshed tears. I collapsed in exhaustion into an Adirondack chair under the full bloom of the wisteria arbor, wine glass in hand. But, once I stood in front of the hive my partner built for me, listening to the soft hum within, I could feel a subtle inner shift. When I left, minutes or an hour later, the pain that had crippled me all day was gone and my mind was clear.
I admit, I “play” with the bees more than they would probably like. But I am curious and I am drawn to them like, well, bees to honey. The first thing I notice when I am at my hive is the smell — sweet and warm and full, a comforting, primal scent that lingers in my nostrils for hours. It just smells right to me, in the same way mountain air does – like I have arrived at home. As my days inhaling the bee-aroma have increased, I am beginning to sense shifts in the hive just by the smell. I am developing a bee nose in the same way the bees learn what they need to know about me when they come out to greet me…how stressed I am, how busy I am I, and seemingly whether they need to be extra gentle with me. We are learning each other, and after a day spent surrounded in harshness, pollution and hostility, it is a relief to be accepted into their community.
Mostly, I love beekeeping because the bees require my full attention and presence in the moment. When I am banging the tools and bars, impatient or unaware of how my body is moving, the bees remind me that I am not connected. The harmonious cacophony of tens of thousands of content bees shifts rapidly to a concerned monotone. It is that sound your mom or grandmother made when she wasn’t sure she liked what she was hearing. If I continue, the bees send a crew out to check on me, buzzing my hands and face to get my attention. In order to get them to calm down, I have to calm down. I have to step back, take some deep breaths and begin again, this time with more awareness in my actions.
And so, after each long day of having to live from a part of me that is guarded and less heart-centered than I normally I am, I go out to the hive and shuffle the bars so I can lay my head down and be a part of the community. I watch and smell and feel their subtle vibration around me. I take deep breaths and think only of this moment, this sound, this smell. Not holding on, not planning action, just observing with lightness and curiosity. And so the bee sisters bring me back to my core, to what is important – doing the work, whatever it is, with mindfulness and presence.