I come from the Beehive State of Utah in the United States. The honeybee is our symbol and represents our deep history of industry. We believe in intuitive, hard work here. Courage runs strong in our history. Community, faith, and home are central here.
This year in our garden, my little boy noticed how much activity the honeybees brought. He became fascinated with what they do, and where they go. “Why do they land only on the flowers? What are they looking for? Do they ever stop for a snack?” I knew this was a terrific time to teach something: something small, and something big, like our honeybee.
I contacted a dear family friend, a retired PhD horticulturist, who graciously agreed to teach our family about the honeybees he keeps as a treasured, retired hobby. That evening, we suited up and headed for the hives. My son delighted to be among the bees, to watch them work. Our friend gave us a summer’s thrill that evening as we watched his bees and learned all about them.
We learned about their biology. We learned about their intuitive roles each so naturally assumes. We learned about their work time and their rest. We watched the queen (she is so easy to spot!) check on the young, making sure they were being well cared for. We watched the bees in wonder as they worked collectively to produce life, to sustain it, and to lay up in store to perpetuate it.
Among our observations, I was particularly interested in a pattern of habit among some of the bees.
“And these? What are these doing?” I asked, pointing to a small set of bees flying just a short distance or so from the hive entrance, only to return again. They repeated this over and over again.
“Oh,” said our friend, “these bees have matured enough to venture out. They’re practicing. They’re learning what home feels like. This gives them the courage they need to go out and perform their work.”
The idea was an obviously powerful one, but still nailed me right between the eyes. In truth, it’s still simmering in me, developing in flavor: community, practice, courage, growth, home. The powerful nature of nature.
Human beings are extraordinary. I’m always amazed by it. There never has been a perfect duplicate of a human being. Each is unique. Each is special, with special dispositions, gifts, abilities. Each of us are born with, and may add to our exquisite potential. And like the honeybee, as we mature in our way, we gain the courage to venture out. A work—our mark—awaits beyond the hive if we have the courage to fly. (This is, of course, the postlude to the powerful foundation of home. But that is another venture for another writing session.)
It is time to harvest the bees’ season of work now, but they yield much more than their honey.