"Place a beehive on my grave
And let the honey soak through.
When I'm dead and gone,
That's what I want from you.
The streets of heaven are gold and sunny,
But I'll stick with my plot and a pot of honey.
Place a beehive on my grave
And let the honey soak through." - Sue Monk Kidd, "Secret Life of Bees"
"One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees..." - Leo Tolstoy
"The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams." - Henry David Thoreau
The summer of 2010 was the summer of the honeybee for me. That's when she came to me, in all her glorious golden beauty, as a symbol for the Divine feminine nature of God.
I grew up in a culture in which we understood God as a dominant male warrior King, fighting for souls and saving us from sin as if we were all "damsels in distress" . As a little girl, I couldn't relate. Nothing about this guy called "God" appealed to me, except for this nagging in my heart telling me that there was more, and that there was love. I remember listening to Bible stories in Sunday school waiting for a strong female character who wasn't pregnant, cooking, or washing. I remember feeling like something wasn't right.
Fastforward to my undergraduate days in art school...I had a professor who flipped it all upside down for me by allowing me the space to explore my questions about gender roles and God through art. He gave me space to work through doubt, anger, frustration, and then he gave me language- "patriarchy", "goddess theories", "I-Thou theories", "matriarchal mythology", to name a few. And then he gave me a book on an ancient mystic woman named Hildegard of Bingen, who wrote about her extreme love of the Divine using the symbol of the honeybee. From Hildegard I followed a line of inspired female authors up to the present day who have written about bees as sacred symbols of the Feminine.
I think space and time hold human inspiration in a collective vat of some sorts, and that these inspirations are dispersed to each of us through different languages, yet the symbols remain the same. Visual language.
For me, the honeybee is my way of understanding God in a whole new light- one in which my femininity is no longer stifled, but powerfully thrives.
(my facts may be off in the following paragraph, but this is what I have come to know about honeybees)
Each hive consists of hundreds of worker bees, all of whom are female, and all of whom have specific roles such as the foragers, the nurses, the laying egg workers, the builders, and so forth. The craziest thing about bees is that the egg laying worker bees only produce unfertalized eggs, which they lay in their comb, feed, nurture into larva, and which exclusively become drones (or male bees). Drones are hilarious because they are big, dopey, have no stingers, and are shoved out of the hive as soon as mating season is over!
All bee larva are fed this stuff called "Royal jelly", which is secreted from worker bees. Interestingly, when it is time for a new queen, worker bees decide to build a separate queen chamber out of wax, and feed that larva extra Royal jelly in order to develop her into a larger, sexually mature bee! The community creates their leader together! Only the queen will be able to lay fertilized female eggs to continue the growth of the colony.
So now that you've had some "Honeybee 101", perhaps you can see where my creative mind went with this!
In 2011 I wrote out all my research and symbolic language of the honeybee in a thesis paper, and created giant splashy/abstract/also anatomically accurate oil paintings on wood panels for my graduating show. From that year forward, the bees have always been part of my symbolic visual language.
Fastforward to my time WWOOFing at Lola Sonoma farm...
Suiting up to work with the bees I took a second to center myself and put on love before working in the hives. I've read several accounts that bees pick up on the energy emitted by the beekeeper. This was confirmed to me by my teacher named Chris, who told me that he would be speaking to me in a softer voice than normal to keep the bees at ease.
The feeling of having hundreds of bees swirling and dancing around my body is like nothing I can describe. Just pure energy. Yellow. Warm. Humming. I felt as if I was opening chambers of ancient wisdom when I opened up the hives to harvest honey and comb. The way bees are deeply connected to the sun, to geometry, to the elements, and to sound waves...its just magical.
Ill never forget the hum that turned into a dull roar as Chris and I opened the last hive to collect comb. These girls were strong and they were letting us know by dive-bombing our masks and hands. We worked slowly and methodically, gently sending the bees love and thanking them. This was definitely one of the most special days I've ever experienced.
After working with the bees I was introduced to the rest of the gang on the farm! Each animal has a name, a personality, and a special connection with Chris and Lori, and all of them run around and play together during the day as one big family.
I didn't know this about myself, but I actually love goats! This girl sitting next to me is Stella, and she was gracious enough to let me learn how to milk her, and later on learn how to make cheese from her milk!
So this is the cuddle corner! After the goats have eaten, they literally come to this corner and ask for pets and cuddles from Lori! How adorable is that?
I didn't know I could form an emotional bond with a goat, but here I am loving on all these bundles of stinky delight! And yes, they really do all have their own personalities!
A lot of other amazing things happened on the farm- one day we had a small celebration of honeybees by inviting guests over from the community and sharing the blessings of honey and goat cheese and wine from the farm together. I also had the joy of displaying my art and sketches for people to see, and we talked about creativity and life and farm life.
Walking away from Lolo Sonoma, I have a sense of finding a deeper part of myself, one that has a healed and new understanding of God and of my feminine power. I also found that farming calmed my anxiety- like to the point where it was gone when I was cuddling goats, belly rubbing piglets, and harvesting honey. Maybe it's that deep sense of Feminine Mother, that when you work with other creatures in nature that energy comes out of you, calming all, and calming yourself.
"...The world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places. Don't be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don't be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don't swat. Don't even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee's temper. Act like you know what you're doing, even if you don't. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved." - Sue Monk Kidd
Thank you Chris and Lori at Lola Sonoma farm! What an incredible experience!