Tell it to the bees

We’ve been having more inspiring classes here at the Sanctuary, and I’d love to start by sharing a story that one of our students brought with her.

Before the Industrial Revolution transformed every aspect of our daily lives, beekeeping and our relationship with the honeybee was very different than it is today. Traditionally, honeybees were kept by priests, monks, medicine men and women, and also families for the pollination of their homestead or small farm. At that time, honey was considered so precious that it couldn’t be bought or sold, and was given away freely, as gifts to friends and family, or used as medicine. Even in our oldest historical records of beekeeping, inscribed on temple walls in Ancient Egypt, we find that honeybees were considered sacred and honored as an important member of the community.

Go tell it to the bees is a beautiful tradition that arose from knowledge that the honeybee is a highly evolved being that embodies a quality of love and service that most of us humans strive our entire lives to emulate. With this understanding, we were able to approach the honeybees from a place of humility and vulnerability, and in doing so, we would open ourselves to receive what blessings and wisdom they had to offer.

So we went to the bees to pour our hearts out, to share with the bees our innermost and private secrets, pains, joys, failures and hopes. And the bees listened. They would take in our stories and begin foraging on specific nectar sources that would, in turn, create a living, healing honey remedy unique to the situations we brought before them. Of course this honey could not be sold, but given away as medicine for those that needed it. And even more important than the physical healing remedy that the bees prepared, we recognized that the bees, if sincerely invited, would come into our lives and work with us on deeper emotional and spiritual levels.

Now, I have already experienced the honeybees as a guiding and healing presence in my life. When I felt like I wanted to do more with my life and prayed for direction, the honeybees came to me in dreams, in nature, in conversations and in many other ways, clearly encouraging me to explore their world and help them in this time of need. Before I started working with the bees I also had a painful digestive issue that saw no signs of healing, and had persisted through several different approaches to treatment. After starting to work with bees and getting stung a few times, my digestive issues cleared up almost immediately. And there have been many, many other experiences with the bees that have proven to me that they are much more than the story our physical senses tell us, and that they have much more to offer us than the honey, wax, propolis and pollination we already benefit from.

And so I took this woman’s story to heart. These last two months have been fairly emotionally challenging for me, full of difficult endings, new beginnings, physical illness, old dysfunctional patterns and beliefs surfacing, and a whole lot of new experiences to make sense of. Somewhere in the middle of all this, I remembered this woman’s story. And so I started telling the bees.

Sometimes I go the bees in the early morning, and sometimes I go late at night when the sanctuary is empty, save for fireflies and starlight. Sometimes I go to each hive, and sometimes I go only to one or two I feel a special connection with. To whichever hive I go, I sit or stand close by and, as best I can, open myself to the bees. At times there are words that come, and sometimes tears, though most often I simply tell the bees what’s going on and invite them into my heart to see whatever is there.

Now, it would be great if I could say that after telling the bees, all my problems were solved. But they weren’t. I think the bees are far too wise for that! What I have begun to see, however, is how situations have started to arise that are exactly what I need to see my issues in a different and clearer way. Or situations arise that require me to bring forth a level of courage that make my challenges seem to fall apart on their own, as if the glue (usually fear) that holds them together is no longer strong enough. The simple telling of my (ongoing) story to the bees also feels like significant part of the process, and I have noticed my relationship and ease with the bees continue to deepen. I have also started to have cravings for honey like never before, and almost every evening I drink a cup of nettle tea with honey and raw milk. Stepping back to get a sense of the bigger picture, it feels like the bees, if asked, are willing to help us become more aware, selfless, connected and loving human beings, and that it is their great joy to serve us in this way.

I often ask myself how is this even possible? And the true answer is that I don’t know. I don’t actually know how any of this is possible, yet impossibly beautiful and unexplainable things happen here every single day. And, as I shared in a previous entry, I think these are the questions that may be better left unanswered, and given time to unfold throughout the course of a lifetime. All I know is that the bees do indeed have a certain magic and wisdom of their own, and are willing to help those who sincerely ask for it. Being willing to get stung also helps, though I’ve experienced that some need that particular medicine more than others.

While this healing and discovery process has been at the heart of my experience during these last two months, we have also been very busy at Spikenard! Swarming season is coming to an end, with 14 swarms caught and most given new homes here in the Sanctuary. I’m a little sad that that swarming season is over, though it does come with a small sigh of relief and bit more of a regular daily rhythm. It’s now time to start looking with the bees toward the winter months, to make sure they are strong and provisioned enough to survive even the harshest and longest winter here. I am learning that overcompensation is the beekeeper’s best friend.

And even with a healthy dose of overcompensation, we’ve still been able to have a small honey harvest this year. What a joy that is! To harvest, we simply take the ready and bee-less box off the hive, pull out the frames, uncap the honey and spin the frames in our extractor. Soon there will be a river of honey flowing out and into waiting 5 gallon buckets. And, in case you were wondering, there is absolutely no way to harvest honey without getting it literally everywhere. And the rule here is that not a single drop honey goes to waste, which makes for a very sweet afternoon. On average, we’re able to harvest about 10% of the honey our bees make, and the rest gets left with them for their winter and spring needs.

Our gardens and nursery have been overflowing with an abundance of flowers, vegetables, herbs and fruit, and we are now starting to plan and seed for the fall. The food from these gardens is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced! So full of life! There have been studies done, mostly in Europe where biodynamic food is more accessible, that show that the cells of biodynamic food actually contain and radiate more light than organic or conventionally grown food. The quality of light in our food, I am learning, is another important aspect of nutrition and necessary for the proper functioning of our whole being.

And I’m coming to understand the biodynamic farming methods and practices even more deeply, and to appreciate how they strive not only to heal and enliven the earth and soil, but provide nourishment that actually supports the development and evolution of the complete human being. If there is a way out of the challenges we have created for ourselves on this planet, growing our own food with love, or supporting those who do, is surely the place to start.

Which brings me to the last thing I’d like to share, which is that I’ve started to have a sense of what I’ll be working towards after I leave this internship in November. I came here for the bees, but I’m seeing now that my work with the bees is really only part of a much bigger vision – to find a small bit of land and help us human beings remember what it’s like to live in harmony with the earth and its processes and rhythms, to help us remember how to care for our land, plants, and animals in a way that brings vitality, understanding, growth, beauty, and harmony to everything we touch.

It’s becoming so clear that unless we really know how to live on this planet in a way that honors and encourages health at all levels for all involved, we cannot possibly hope for a future our children can thrive in. And I know if I can do it, if I, too, can be another small example of what else is possible, then I know anyone can do it. What greater gift could I give?

Speaking of gifts, I recently had a meeting with Gunther, the founder of Spikenard, and I shared these feelings and visions with him. I’d like to end this entry with one of the things he said to me, in my own words:

“If your vision is selfless enough, you will receive all the help you need to stay the course. You can never know all the ways in which help will come, and you may not always recognize help when it arrives. But help will come. It always does. Nobody is an island, and we are completely dependent on each other for our survival. The sooner you learn this, the better.”

Thanks, Gunther.

Alex catching treetop swarm Treetop swarm Stairway to heaven Treetop swarm Sunrise silica spraying God save the queen Sunrise prep stirring Echinacea Beautiful bees Sweetness and grace Honey with friends Borage Bumbling Chanterelle Class in the pavilion Compost wisdom