There’s a tiny creature buzzing about the world with infinite wisdom – it’s the humble honeybee.
Vital to our existence, this ancient insect has been making honey the same way for 150 million years. It’s no wonder they live oblivious to the industrious ways of our modern civilization. They only know of the beauty and bounty of the nature they rely on to survive.
Yet, they have so much to teach us, we just have to listen.
In the past few weeks, my family’s garden has been abuzz with these fluffy creatures, bouncing from the purple potato flowers, like the one in the photo above captured by my dad Cameron, to the forest of yellow dill now thick enough to get lost in. As I watch them hover over each plant and drop their heads into the blossoms all in sync, I can’t help but learn a thing or two from the bees.
Cucumber season is in full swing which means long mornings crouched over the prickly plants, searching through the web of long tentacles and veiny leaves for the little green treasures.
I’d be lying if I said I had much to do with the back-break work of picking, though. I’m usually inside where there’s air conditioning. My job is cleaning the cucumbers, slumped over the sink looking out the window to our back yard.
To pass the time during this mindless work I listen to audiobooks. Last week I collected an essential summer reading list and one book stood out, colliding with the magical moment I had with the bees. It’s called “The Honey Bus” (2019) by Meredith May.
So far, it’s been a heartbreaking, nostalgic time-bomb and truly one of those magical reads/listens. As Meredith recalls her childhood in the memoir, she has some of the most insightful lines that have all been pushing me to write this blog.
“I learned how bees care for one another and work hard, how they make democratic decisions about where to forage and where to swarm, and how they plan for the future. Even their stings taught me how to be brave.” – Meredith May, “The Honey Bus”
Yes, their stings may hurt – I know from experience – but I’ve never understood the run-in the-opposite-direction, panic-stricken reaction to bees. In fact, they flutter through my memories like a cool breeze. Like when I used to get out of the tractor by the side of a field to look at the multi-colored boxes and listen to the collective hum. Or the time I spent an entire day on the shore of a lake, reading in a hammock as they zipped past.
Now, the bees mean more to me than childhood fascination. They’re a reminder that we have to protect our precious environment. They also prove that the beauty of flowers goes beyond physical attraction. The bees know that flowers are truly life-giving.
Just like the flowering plants in my family’s garden, the arts that bloom throughout Fargo-Moorhead offer vivid colors, texture and entertainment to all those that can stop and appreciate them.
With wings beating 11,400 times per minute, the bees hum like a Shubert symphony. They land on the flowers like a ballet dancer gliding across the stage. From one flower to another, they inhale a gallery of works with colors reminiscent of works by Renoir or Matisse.
But instead of questioning the meaning of the music they make or the beauty they see with their five eyes, they harness the beauty and make honey. As the only insect that can produce a product edible to humans, bees are true artists, creating a sweet, bright light from the pollen of beautiful flowers.
So every time you question the meaning of art, or someone comes at you with a question about why the arts matter to our community, just think of the bees.
As a special treat for reading to the end of my somewhat metaphorically top-heavy blog post, thanks for reading by the way, here’s a few tangible facts below about the creatures that we all love so much.