I don’t do journeywork any more, but I remain a shaman in spirit, if not in practice. The world to me is alive, all of it, in ways that biological functions can’t define or determine. It’s all light and energy, it’s all interconnected — visibly if I open my eyes in the right way — and bees are little sparks in flight. Sitting with them is part of my daily meditation, becoming part of their landscape as they accept me as a resting and jumping-off point, them becoming part of mine as my vision shifts and the air comes alive with trails of light and energy.
My husband has been watching me do this for months now. He’s apparently decided that if I’m weird, it’s his kind of weird. This afternoon, he came out to me with an eyedropper in hand and told me to turn my palm up. Bees eat like hummingbirds. And clean themselves like cats. We have hummingcat bees. And in their own way, they purr.
Sugar water drops
On my fingertips reflect
Sunlight and bee tongues
I’m becoming more aware each day of his hand in keeping the bees happy and thriving. He’s happy to tell me what he’s doing and why he does it each time something new comes up. He enjoys my being so curious about his work, but it also gives him a topic to talk on, which he does non-stop while he’s working the hives. Nonsense, a stream of dirty jokes, a weather report for the day, he talks to them in a low, calm tone. On the days when he’s doing something that’s new to me, he can add the explanation, and an explanation to them of why he’s explaining it. It’s dark in the hive, he tells me. They can’t see the dancing; they feel it. They hear that way, too. Whether they have the capacity to know him by the vibration patterns of his voice, no one knows. They do have the capacity to tell vibrations apart that finely, though — that and far beyond. And it keeps him relaxed and working in a steady rhythm, too; those things matter beyond a doubt.
Today his work is partly away from the hives. He’s taking frames out of storage, cleaning and repairing and organizing. I notice that the frames are sorted in part by the size of the preformed cells in them. He taps one stack and says that size encourages producing more drones, something he’ll do once a year for purposes the bees themselves don’t share, but benefit from: By placing and removing drone frames at the right times, he can also remove 75% or more of any new Varroa mite brood, which can leave a number that’s readily manageable for a healthy hive that’s aggressive toward them. It also controls bee population, which prevents swarming. This particular kind of bee is predisposed to both aggressive removal of mites and swarming, so drone culling works exceptionally well with them.
“And it gives us our morning eggs,” he says cheerfully. The usual route to ensure that the mites are destroyed is to freeze them. But chooks love them, and the mites are entirely harmless to the birds, so he brings the whole stack of them a couple of miles up the road to a man who keeps chickens. It’s enough to provide a couple of days’ free high-quality food to the chickens, and in payment for the smorgasbord we get fresh eggs once a week.
There’s a reason I look around me and see my best life. It’s the same reason that makes me feel an urge to bake bread and hang needlework on the walls and make preserves from the fruits the bees are hard at work pollinating, and plant an herb garden — something my husband is enthusiastically encouraging for us and for the bees: Everything intertwines with everything else.