Friday, December 18, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Revealing the beds to see what lies beneath
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
This marks my third summer working with the bees. I was thinking that 3 years sounds like a long time but it is nothing in helping me understand such a great mystery as the honeybee and the hive. Among beekeepers it is said that in order to be considered a beekeeper you need 5 years under your belt. Most people make it 3 at most. I understand why.
Last year, true to personal form, I thought I understood beekeeping pretty well. I worked with and studied under some great teachers and movers and shakers in the bee world. I went into a lot of hives and saw a lot of different bee realities. I knew what was going on most of the time and felt pretty comfortable in my work. That was until the cords were cut and I was out on my own. On my own and often too proud to ask for guidance…
Fear is the biggest hurdle in this work. It is not the fear of being stung that gets me. It is more the fear of upsetting a volatile being. It is the fear of hurting someone who cannot afford any more hurt. It is the fear of my own power to foster life and manifest death. With thousands of stinging insects buzzing in my ears all of these fears come rushing to the surface, forcing my heart to beat faster and harder, causing my entire body to quiver uncontrollably as if I had just downed a gallon of coffee.
With all of this fear I would forget to breathe.
Without breath it is likely I will make a fatal mistake. And I have.
Thousands of bees can live or die at my hand. That is a huge responsibility for someone who shies away from such things. One wrong move and the whole thing could end. One thoughtless manipulation and the bees could have a few weeks of recovery from my lack of forethought, or thought of their needs over my own.
This is beekeeping. This is learning.
Add to all of this disease and mites and my sleep is lost at night. I see why folks quit after 3 years. The pain of losing hives, of seeing your sweet little ladies inundated with those little blood sucking parasites. To see her little legs trying futilely to remove the mite that is so perfectly positioned so that the bee cannot get her off. To see the babes with shriveled wings and shrunken bodies is heartbreaking. Small hive beetle, wax moths, wasps, mice, ants, you name it…we are all after what the bees got. How about witnessing a brutal war between a weak hive and a strong hive. The strong hive will come and destroy the weak hive and steal all of it’s honey. Peaceful my ass!
When times are good, times are good. Nectar is flowing, brood is being born, the hive grows, the honey is stored. Everyone is happy and full of love and light. But when the slim times come. Well, you know. It’s ugly.
Mainly though, what I am doing is projecting my inner process onto the bees. I imagine this is much of the medicine that they offer up to us; and have offered up to us for thousands of years. They are healers and I a humble servant. My fear is for all sacred mysteries and I pray that we will make it through these challenging times together. I pray that in 2 years I will have a big beekeeping initiation. We will all do a waggle dance together to celebrate the harvest of health and prosperity as well as human submission to the divine wisdom of nature.
Is anyone reading this? Is blogging as inane as I believe it to be?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
This place is more a prayer than a garden
A piece of the planet so long abused for the sake of human progress
Sparkplugs are more common than worms in the earth here. If you can call it earth. This conglomeration of dirt and concrete and car parts and plastic pieces and broken glass. This pit where dirty automobile oil has been sopped up and vitality of life has long been forgotten. This place is where I want to build a garden.
So to the old abandoned factory lot I bring in compost and discarded tree parts to hold the soil in place. I bring in seeds and a hose.
I plant a prayer
Terry Tempest Williams entitled her latest book “Finding Beauty in a Broken World”. And this is exactly what I have set out to do here.
This place is lifeless and I want to bring life back to this point on the planet. I want to heal what is broken.
Inside and out
I put a blue plastic tarp in the back of my chevy astro van, buy a cheap shovel from the neighborhood hardware store and get to work filling up my van with composted suburban lawn debris. Day after day, load after heavy load I go back and forth from the recycling center in Morristown to the factory lot in Boonton until I just can’t shovel anymore. Until the dirt is so far lodged in the van door that it won’t shut. Until the compost pile has become a big mass of muck. Until I got a phone call from my mother asking that I take her to the hospital. Her blood pressure is 80/50 and the visiting nurse was insistent that she go to the emergency room.
Big black leather boots
Big black rubber treads on big black leather boots
Glossy waxed white sterile hospital floor
Antiseptic antibiotic hygienic controlled environment
Mud ripped clothes rustled hair wild microorganisms
Finding Beauty in a Broken World
I planted seeds
Water fell from the sky
Death and disease lingered around the edges of my world
The seeds sprouted. Life bursting forth from the mysteries of the dark earth. A salad was eaten of spicy arugula, freckled lettuce, dark green spinach, mustard greens, and red russian kale. All it takes is some nurturance of micronutrients, water and sun. Vibrant green life entered me, invigorated me, brought love and gratitude to my heart and nourishment to my body
30 year old woman, cardiac arrest, maybe it was the alcohol mixed with the anti-depressants, maybe it was the years of bulimia, maybe it was just a mistake, but the fact remained that a loved one was dead.
Groundhogs devour the garden. All life that had sprouted was gone. Depressed and determined I erected a fence.
Peas, beans and greens sprouted
Rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain
Rain rain rain
No light, no sun, no growth
Critters comes and eat it all (again)
Then one day the sun came out. I watched after weeks of rain how 2 days of sun can create such a burst of life. I build trellis’ for the peas.
Erect a bigger fence
More seeds planted
More time in the hospital with mom
Another young loved one dies in a car accident
Uncle dies of sudden heart attack
Critters eat whatever grows (again)
Another fence around the fence. Tomatoes and herbs that were started indoors go out.
I have planted something here
And it wasn’t what I thought it was
Grubs, wire worms, ground hogs, wasps, ants, dragonflies, robins, beetles, crows, flies, rabbit, cat, bees
The food on this ground would have been toxic to me anyhow.
I am growing hope
Life carries on
In this lot of death and toxicity, these critters come and thrive now. In those quiet moments of hopeless despair, I know that I have provided refuge for fellow beings on the planet. When their world looks like it is being gobbled up they found a place to settle in where they are not threatened (when I am in the right frame of mind of course). These are the underdogs, the ones that humans are all too eager to label as pests and exterminate.
A big fat groundhog waddled in front of my moving car yesterday. I had the opportunity to press my right foot to the skinny gas pedal and put an end to that gluttonous marmot; put an end to the devouring of gardens and hope; put an end to all the disappointments and pain of loss. But it was in that moment of choice between braking or accelerating that I realized that the fate of this place depends on my relationship to it. That the only way to really find beauty in a broken world is to see clearly what is before me and not to be governed by selfish desires. We are one being on this planet with many parts and my fate is dependant on the land on which I live. So I nurture what needs to be nurtured and clearly it is my heart and the marmot's belly.
My prayer continues to grow…
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I wrote this in 1998 and just came across it. Anyone who has grown tomatoes for a living might relate?
Monday, July 13, 2009
As I was walking down the rain drenched streets of Vancouver with a virtual stranger this evening, he asked me where I was from. I told him, with a bit of reluctance, New Jersey
New Jersey, everyone has got the wrong idea about the place. I mean, shoot, I’m thankful for The Sapranos, The Garden State movie AND soundtrack, and the new founded ‘cool’ in blue-collar heroes like Bruce Springsteen, but really, we are so much more than that!
New Jersey, you know the place… “the girls with big hair”, “the land of shopping malls and greasers”, “the armpit of America”. Too many people have the wrong idea. Tonight, as I walked through this quiet rainy Canadian city, this man informed me that “New Jersey is one big suburb”. His comment was made from his observation from the interstate. His observation as he drove through the state was one made of ignorance, one made by someone on his way to somewhere else. He didn’t know the Jersey that I knew.
As people drive through the ‘garden state’ like addicts on their way to their next fix they don’t see all that I know of this beautiful land. I would bet my last Atlantic City dollar that they never put a spade in the earth and witnessed just how deep and rich this garden state soil is. I would bet that same dollar (now that it is two) that they have never planted a heritage tomato seed brought to NJ by the struggling Italian great grandparents of the now flourishing mobsters. Have they watched the massive green fruit grow darker and deeper in its hues of red to match their European skin, as the days grow even hotter and brighter in the July Jersey sun? Have they even tasted a Jersey tomato? Maybe. But one of mine? Doubt it! The soft, sweet, ruby flesh dripping onto the cutting board after a sharp stainless steel knife slices through it. Ya wouldn’t fuhgetaboutit.
Have these people who have ‘been through jersey” driven the back roads? Where for miles all you see is old deciduous forests accented with meandering rivers and train-tracks and then, out of no where you are in a beautiful old town that has sat among these hills for hundreds of years. Not only do the buildings speak of their age, but also one visit to the cemetery and the crumbling gravestones give you the sense of the antiquity of this state.
I imagine the same ignorant people who talk trash about Jersey are the ones who have moved there with their multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies and chemical plants. These are the same people who stand to make a profit off of people agreeing that Jersey IS a dump. Because if you think it ain’t worth anything then why would you defend it? It is not the people and the land that stink, it is the corporate pollution.
It really wasn’t coined ‘the garden state’ for nothin’ and I just really want them to know that.
When we talk of nature, we often exclude humans, ourselves. We speak of the innate knowing in nature. How amazing it is that nature knows how to do whatever it is she does. How the bees know how to create hexagons and honey and wax and queens. How the earth grows bramble to protect and cleanse the land. How salmon know how and where and when to go every fall to spawn. It is common to find someone standing in awe at the mystery of how the geese know how to fly in that pattern and which direction south is or how the killer whales know where to hang out every year to eat on their migratory journey south.
The human entity is just as miraculous as the rest of nature. The designs and intricacies of timing and function are astounding when observed. We take so much of human nature for granted and scoff at the destruction our societies have created. I have heard it said that it is easier to see what is outside of ourselves, but if we take some time to look inside, we might be in awe of what lies in our bodies, hearts and souls and learn to love human nature a bit more. When is the last time you heard anyone talking about how miraculous it was that for about 1/3 of our lives we are in hibernation? Our bodies just shut down shop and say good night when the sun goes down. Or what of the mystery of women shedding blood and tissue every 28 days in accordance to the moon? I stand in awe at our relationship to the sun and the ocean and the mysteries that conduct much of our behaviors.
But what of these relationships between humans and the rest of nature? If we gave ourselves as much forgiveness as we gave the rest of nature and viewed our place on this planet as essential, then maybe healing could take place. It is my belief that until we do that; until we recognize that we are an integral part of nature, we will not survive these trying times.
We look at the bees and see their eminent demise.
According to many, past and present, it is due to the industrialization of their life cycle.
Industrialization of life cycles is happening to all life on the planet, if we are to look at it in a broader sense. Humans included. Our natural inclinations are being suppressed and superseded as well as all other creatures on the planet. This has a dreadful effect on us, just as it does on the bees, on the salmon, on the whales, the birds, bats, cows, frogs, on the ecosystem in general. Sleep disorders, anxiety, heart disease, ADD, menstrual discomforts are just a few effects of industrialization on humans that pop into my mind as I write this.
As humans, we tend to take the blame for all the worlds woes (I do anyway, but I can also blame that on being raised Roman Catholic). We blame human nature for all the destruction in the world. I want to encourage a shift of thinking though. A way to recognize our wondrous and mysterious link in the sacred web of life. A way to honor ourselves and listen to our natural inclinations as opposed to following what is expected of us or demanded of us by the industrialized thinkers. Life is dynamic and with consciousness and care we are all welcome to walk into that mystery.
Looking inside can be difficult, as there is often pain lying there within the truth of our souls. In finding those imprisoned wild places within us we will be able to relate to the natural world with more clarity. It is in the relating and listening that we will know what we need to do to shift the course that we are on.