Blessed Bee

After a 3 day train ride from Chicago to the west coast, I made it to Eugene, OR, to work with Philip Smith of Blessed Bee. Philip is a small-scale organic beekeeper here in Eugene, with some hives at home and a few outlying beeyards around town. 

We’ve been busy this week, working in the garden, checking up on the hives around town, collecting pollen, bottling honey, and getting ready for Eugene’s (apparently famous) Saturday farmers market.

I’d say that I am already learning a lot here. Philip is great teacher, and there is little teaching here that can be spoken aloud; much of what I’ve been learning is simply how to be and work with the bees in a gentle and perceptive way, how to not get in their way, how to understand what is going on with them by they way they behave, and how to intuit what they will be needing over the next few weeks as the season matures. 

I’m realizing that getting to know the bees is also getting to know the entire play of nature and the seasons.  I’ve really enjoyed, as we drive around town from beeyard to beeyard, learning about all the different flowering plants and trees that the bees are visiting, each offering it’s own unique nectar and pollen for the bees to collect. Black Locust, Yellow Locust, Scotch Broom, Photinia, Crimson Clover, Lavender…soon the main honey flow will start, which happens when the Blackberries begin to bloom. We’ll often just pull over and check to see of the bees have started working a certain tree or plant yet, or Philip will point out the window as we drive by and I’ll catch a few honeybees darting from flower to flower, high up in the treetops.  

Tasting honey straight from the hive is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and it is nothing like what we finally eat from the bottle…so much gets lost along the way. Honey straight from the hive is like a blend liquid sunlight, pure joy, and the subtle essence of a million blooming flowers that radiate the inherent goodness of simply being alive. If I didn’t have an open box of bees in front of me at the time, I may have just wept. It was that beautiful.

I am also becoming more aware of the very real crisis that we and the honeybees are facing.  Philip has been doing a huge amount of work to raise awareness of the danger that pesticides, chemicals, and other conventional farming methods create for pollinators of all kinds.  Because of him and other local beekeepers, Eugene became the first city in the US to ban the use of neonicotinoids, the #1 pollinator-killing pesticide currently on the market (read this recent study about neonicotinoids). This is a challenging aspect of this work, though one that has helped me become even more inspired and clear about working with the bees in a holistic and healing way. 

Being in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest is a blessing, and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks here.  It looks like I’ll be back in Chicago and available for sessions from the 16th to the 21st of June, and then I will be heading out to Floyd, Virginia to begin a 2 year, part-time biodynamic beekeeping certification course. I’ve just opened up my online scheduler for this one week in June that I will be in Chicago, and also after I return from Virginia on the 7th of July.

We’ve been busy keeping up with the bees here, and I will share more when I can!