“In the beginning”, she said, “you think you can control them… But you can’t. All you can do, is follow.”
I tried to follow her words, yet I was lulled into a silent peacefulness, by the buzzing sounds of the thousands of bees who lived in that small garden bursting with flowers. Or perhaps it was the smoldering sage and evergreen that our gentle beekeeper used to appease her extended family, which seemed to have the same effect on me as on the bees…
In any case, I stood there, feeling at one with the bees, watching in delight. I listened. Tasted. Helped when I could, trying to spot each hive’s queen, learning about the intricate, perfectly balanced, sophisticated world of the bees.
A world where, far from being specialized, each worker bee goes through all the different tasks the hive requires as she gets older, in a perfectly orchestrated sequence. A world where the queen isn’t a despot; she lives in service to her hive. A world where each individual bee knows exactly what it needs to do when, and does it.
That evening, still seeing buzzing bees in front of my eyes, I watched again the extraordinary documentary More than Honey. And the profound wisdom of the beekeeper’s earlier words hit me.
Yes, we think we can control them. The bees of course, but that statement could pretty much apply to the way we have been interacting with all of nature. We think we can control animals, plants, the climate… and while we’re at it, other humans too, starting with our children, our spouses…
The interesting thing is that we now have an opportunity to see the truth: we can’t. No matter what we tell ourselves. No matter how much we try to convince ourselves that we can control everything, all the while blocking out any information that would challenge this cherished belief.
We can’t control the external environment. We never have. We have just been living in the illusion that we are the masters of the universe. And until recently, the damage we created was not directly threatening our well-being on a massive scale, so we continued playing.
But the time is up. And the bees are just one of the species trying to make that clear to us. We know why they are dying. It seems pretty obvious. It is just extremely inconvenient to admit it.
But if we don’t want to end up pollinating trees by hand – as they are already doing in certain parts of China – to begin with, we need to stop pumping toxic chemicals into our environment. We also need to truly re-think the impact of our glorified man-made waves (think cell-phone towers, wifi, etc.) on other species. And we need to stop treating bees as if they were on this planet exclusively to serve our needs.
But most importantly, we need to understand that any attempt to control anything external to ourselves can only end in delusion and misery. Besides, no one is asking us to control anything. We can free ourselves from that self-inflicted stress. And relax.
What a relief, isn’t it?
The beekeeper sends a whisk of smoke into a new hive, before delicately examining each frame to check the hive’s health. Twice a year, she will take a bit of honey from them, along with some pollen, wax and propolis – ingredients for healing balms. But “never too much”, she said, with a smile. The bees need to keep enough for their own needs.
Needless to say, the honey from these bees, living on a wild hill by the sea, treated with deep love and respect, is one of the best I have ever tasted. Its golden hue an invitation to marvel at the beauty of life.
To remember that once we give up trying to control everything, we can embrace the wisdom of life. Follow it. And learn to simply bee.
If you are in Aegina, Nina welcomes you to come and visit the bees. Contact her through her website.
Nicole Schwab is author of The Heart of the Labyrinth, a young woman’s poetic journey deep into the Andes, and deep into her mind, in search for her lost connection with Mother Earth and the sacred feminine.