Birds do it, bees do it…let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Those are lyrics penned by the legendary Cole Porter nearly a century ago. When I sang them in the 60’s, I belonged to a men’s double-quartet. We had fun with those words, as one might expect of college men, but I had no clue what I was singing about. I thought I knew all about the birds and the bees, but I really didn’t know much. These days, I want to learn more.
Spring has now gloriously sprung. Bird music in my neighborhood springs forth long before sunrise. The birds seem to know something, and they’re trying to tell me. Poet Jean Burden says those birds, if they could, would say, “We sing of what you do not speak – how night is sometimes noon, how any season of the soul can, with time, be coaxed to spring.”
I wonder: is the buzzing of bees the music they make, while their souls are being coaxed to spring? Maybe I’ll find out. I’ve decided: I want to learn to be a beekeeper. In his book Confessions of a Bad Beekeeper, Bill Turnbull says bees have taught him several life lessons. “Even by being a bad beekeeper,” he claims, “you can become a better person.”
So far, I know how to don a bee suit, walk to one of our apiaries, and visit our bees. I’m bee-ginning to bee a bee student, bee-cause bees are not just busy, they’re bee-utiful (Sorry. I just couldn’t help myself.) It’s not just because the honeybee is Tennessee’s official “agricultural insect.” I want to learn what bees have to teach me, because…I think I’m falling in love again.
Children learn that birds lay eggs and bees share pollen. Growing up, “the birds and the bees” was code for “the talk” parents gave children about reproduction. Yet that phrase is nothing more than our attempt to explain nothing less than the beauty of creation, the power of love. And love, we at Thistle & Bee believe, is the most powerful force in the world for change.
Nineteenth-century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “All nature seems at work…The bees are stirring – birds are on the wing…and I the while, the sole unbusy thing, not honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.” I can sing, and I have paired, but I still want to learn how bees build hives full of that divine nectar we love as honey. I still need to change how I see all creatures, not just bees, who differ from me, as my sisters and brothers. I still need to learn how I can be part of the healing and love we at Thistle & Bee seek to share with the women we serve – those who have survived lives of prostitution, violence, addiction, shame, and exploitation. I still don’t know very much. I’m a student. I need and I want to learn more.
Mills, Thistle & Bee’s chief beekeeper, recently sent an email to Drew, our assistant beekeeper, and to me. It began, “It’s time to put on the honey supers, queen excluders, and reverse the entrance reducers.” I’m even learning a new language!
When it comes to supers and all the rest, I suspect I’ll always need supervision. I just want to be a helper, a beekeeper apprentice, a student. I know our beekeepers and bees, as well as the birds, can teach me how to love, in ways I never imagined.
“Helpers are always welcome!” Mills says, and he’s right. “I expect we could handle another 5 hives at each location this year.” That’s ten more hives, making a total of eighteen. (Someone has already given us the hives.)
When it comes to bees, there’s always more to say, but for now: We need your help! I invite you to join me as a beekeeper’s helper. Come and learn, with me, how to fall in love again.
– Rev Thomas A Momberg