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  • Writer's pictureZulayka

For The Love of Bees

[This is a cross-posting of the blog I write for Earthseed Land Collective. I write often, but post rarely, so I thought it best to maximize outlets when it happens.]

The gift/challenge with opening your heart to the more-than-human world and making a commitment to listen is that you then have to prepare yourself for the messages that will come. Because come they will. In June of 2021 I had my second formal run-in with the order of insects called Hymenoptera (which includes bees, wasps and hornets). I was on my bicycle—completely lost in the bliss of the moment. Refreshing wind caressing my face, feeling high on the freedom of movement during a time when everything else our lives felt restricted. All my cares dissipating with each mile ridden.

This made the sudden encounter with a stinger on my right cheek all the more abrupt. I felt the sharp and very distinct pain before I fully realized what was happening. The swelling began almost instantly as I felt the insect’s protective serum make its way through my body. Fortunately, I wasn’t too far from home and I quickly pedaled my way back.

Although it had been over a decade since I had first experienced a wasp sting, the body memory was still very fresh. One small prick would soon turn into a hive (the irony of this word does not allude me). The hives would then begin multiplying and spreading across my body, joining together, until all of my skin was covered in red itchy welts. Then, the lightheadedness and the wheezing–my breathing constricted, requiring horizontality as my body processed the venom and histamines. Apparently, this is all part of an allergic reaction to these insects. Fortunately, mine was not severe enough to require medical intervention, but definitely more than just an itchy bump to contend with.

As I lay in my bed groggy and disoriented, both from the venom and the antihistamines I had taken, I wondered if there was a message for me in this incident or was this just an unfortunate collision of bodies in motion? If there was a message trying to be delivered, I must have missed it because 5 months later I had another unexpected rendezvous with our Hymenoptera kin. This time it happened in November, the day after Michaela Harrison, the Whale Whisperer visited Earthseed.

I was sitting quietly at one of the meditation spots in the forest near an elder Scarlet Maple tree. I heard the buzzing approaching and the first thought that crossed my mind was breathe deep, remember how Michaela calmly engaged with the bee, but before I could even finish that thought the bee (this time I had a better sense of the type of insect I was engaging with) landed on my forehead, just between my brows–on my third-eye chakra[1]– and stung me. There was no provocation on my part, no sudden movements, and still the bee felt compelled to deliver this powerful message.

I knew what was coming. Once again, my body’s response was swift, but this time there was something different in my mental and emotional state. I walked back from the forest at a calm and intentional pace. Repeating to myself “may I receive this message with an open heart”—like a mantra, a spell, a wish spoken clearly to the wind and all of the other witnesses that surrounded me.

I made it home safely with a deep knowing in my bones: this was more than just another random occurrence. Our Hymenoptera kin were communicating across species, trying as best they could, to get my attention. Their mission was accomplished. My attention was captivated, yet what was I to do with the message? How could I use my human capacities to benefit our Hymenoptera kin?

All winter I sat with this question heavy on my heart. I went to the library and checked out several books on bees, trying to expand my own understanding of these winged creatures I knew so little of. During the quiet dormancy of the colder months in unison with much of the more-than-human world, I too went inward. Letting some of the external noise fall away, spending more time in the forest, limiting my access to the virtual world in hopes that some deeper wisdom would emerge.

The months passed and spring has arrived with its usual breathtaking blossomed beauty. Life, with its many distractions and possibilities has diverted my gaze, but not derailed my commitment.

The other night as I walked across the yard captivated by the sunset with its purple-orange-pink phenomenal closing act, I felt a familiar graze on my cheek. I was spared a sting this time, fortunately. Yet I felt compelled to pick up where I had left off. I’m still not sure if this will translate into us hosting beehives here at Earthseed or if there will be another way for me to be of service to our Hymenoptera kin.

One thing I am sure of: I will never again look at a bumble bee, honey bee, wasp or hornet in the same ignorant or human supremacist way. I am committed to continue opening my heart, apprenticing to the more-than-human world, embracing opportunities to strengthen connections across differences—in species or other superficial categories. I am listening.

[1] The seven chakras are the main energy centers of the body. The sixth chakra, also called the Ajna or third-eye chakra, is related to our ability to focus on and see the bigger picture. Once you open the third-eye chakra, it becomes easier to connect with the present moment instead of living in the past or future. This extremely spiritual chakra is connected to your intuition, psychic abilities, and higher knowing.

[Photo taken by Zulayka of a honey bee pollinating our blueberry bushes]

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