After my Mother died, in April 1986, I busied myself grappling with my feelings as I wrote "MY BELOVED ENEMIES," a book about my adult recovery from family abuses that ended when Mom died and I walked away from the rest of the family for good. I also spent time tending to the things that hadn’t been done in the last year. Most of those things were outside, where the spring flowers beckoned to me and wild babies played. My little garden gave my life then gave my life balance and serenity, and that was a welcome change.
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It had been my custom for more than thirty years to mulch the flowers in spring against the blistering scorch of Florida's summer’s sun. We also burned away the unusable portion of dry leaves that could so easily provide fodder for the flames of a wild fire in the woods around our country home.
As I looked around the yard one particularly beautiful day, I saw that time and weather had provided the perfect Burn Day. The woods were still and breathless and thunderheads gathered in the distance, holding the promise of cooling the ashes before night fell, when the climate choked smoke close to the earth.
Donning a wide-brimmed, straw hat and garden gloves, I picked up the leaf rake and began to clear a wide parameter around several small areas of dense oak leaves that covered the ground. When I had two areas about fifty feet across separated by a ten foot wide fire break, I back lit both patches.
Soon, the whistle of hawk’s called from nearby. They were drawn to lunch by the smell of smoke, knowing the insects that fled the heat were not watching out for them. I could almost hear the feathered hoard saying, “Thank You, Lord! Thank You, Lord!” over their breakfast.
I worked and watched for several hours as I raked another wide fire break around one of our out-sheds. Soon, though, I became aware of a huge, black spot dizzily circling my head, and instantly heard the buzz of his warning. A giant wood-boaring bee was announcing to me that I had invaded his territory.
“I beg your pardon, Bee! This is my territory, and I’m working today, so scram!” I told him, as though he could hear me. He ignored my warning, and kept right on doing all he knew to do to keep his home safe.
He irritated me for half an hour as I sweat over my work, trying to ignore him, but the closer I got to his place, the closer he got to my face! Soon, I realized it was him or me.
Several times I swatted harmlessly at him, but he dodged the flat tines of the rake and came back with renewed vigor. Suddenly, I actually hit him lightly and knocked him into the leaves.
Right then, the strangest thing happened to me. I actually heard him shriek. His buzz intensified a hundred fold as he plummeted to earth and landed in a dense cluster of brown leaves. I walked to where he’d landed and saw him, dazed, with a cracked and broken wing. It seemed like a minor wound for a moment.
Then, the other buzz caught my attention. It was not a warning. It was a terrified, frantic buzz. This buzz had nothing to do with me, or the fire or the smoke. Another borer bee had arrived and was searching for the one on the ground. No doubt it was the mate.
I backed away and watched as it flew back and forth, franticly crossing and re-crossing the patch of leaves like a coast guard helicopter searching for someone lost in the ocean. It bobbed up and down, circled around and around, and finally landed beside the wounded bee.
Without hesitation it climbed up to the broken wing and inspected it. It even tried to put it back together.
When it couldn’t help, it backed off, flew into the air about three inches over the wounded bee and hoovered there until the wounded one began to walk around. Then it flew, buzzing intermittently, just inches ahead of the other as it climbed over the leaves. It lead the wounded bee across the huge pile of leaves I'd raked up and up the corner post of our shed. Finally, it waited at the entrance of a hole for the wounded one to climb up to it.
All I could think, as I watched it tenderly and compassionately guide its mate home, was that it had done exactly what I would have done for my sweet husband, had he had something happen to him like that. I was miserable, and ill, deep inside.
That bee had only been defending its territory by warning me away, and for that I may have doomed it to death, and caused its mate to grieve. I couldn't imagine bees growing new wings, so I imagined its wound would be forever.
That ruined my day and I quit raking. I figured that since God knew when each sparrow falls to earth, He knew about that bee, too, and I grew physically sick from condemnation and shame.
I learned a valuable, life-long lesson that day from that bee. Everything I am has to do with life, and living things, and I had just transgressed against my own spirit! I had not been true to my own nature. And I felt the transgression of my actions in my spirit. It was a deep and profound sorrow to my heart, as if I had damaged part of me with my rake. I vowed I would never do that again. When the fires went out, I went inside and that was the end of my yard work.
I hadn’t been able to do anything about Mother’s death, but I may have actually caused that bees’ demise just because in a selfish moment I had wanted only what I wanted. Perhaps in the scheme of life, it was trivial. But to the species I hurt, for no reason, it was monumental. That was entirely too much death for me in one spring! The rest of that spring and summer I stuck to reordering my life aright and writing... inside.