“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”
― Rachel Carson, ‘The Sense of Wonder’
The sun was surely burning my back; at least it felt like it. I had on my new bikini top with a halter-top over it. Yesterday had been the hottest day yet this year. The grass was finally a healthy green and the dandelions were blooming. The land had come alive with insects swarming over the grass in a cacophony of inaudible background noise. Fairy-pink apple blossoms filtered down through the branches and slanted into the grass, scenting the air. The heavy humidity amplified the scent of rotting fruit issuing from the chicken coop behind me. The smell coming in pungent waves broken up by the recurring sweet odor of the apple blossoms.
Everything was such a bright shade in the sun. Being used to the gray monotony of school and the inside of cars caused nature to appear unnatural. It was a horrifying realization.
I looked more intently at my surroundings. In front of me were the beehives, two of them, a creamy yellow color. Bees spilled out of the open slat in the front, crawling over each other in a gentle frenzy. They whizzed past my head like little torpedoes, missing me each time. The ones coming back from the fields were laden with pollen, appearing to have yellow saddlebags on their back legs.
Others coming out were in more of a hurry, as if they were being summoned by the open air and they rushed over the returns, clambering with their furry pedipalps, until they broke free of the rest and buzzed past my head. I tried to follow them with my eyes but each one disappeared as the landscape swallowed them up in its overwhelming color.
I watched this process for a long time, describing them in my mind, describing what I was watching to myself. It’s easy to ruin things that way, analyzing them instead of just experiencing them. However, I thought to myself, I wasn’t analyzing, well now I was but before I had just been outlining, breaking things down into their pieces in an effort to look deeper.
I thought about myself, sitting in the grass. I saw how it was. I was alone in a sense but in the best sense because I had made myself alone by choice. To be honest, I loved being alone. It was when I was the happiest; I didn’t have to share a single detail of the beauty that I was seeing. But this resulted in a problem too. It was impossible to show other people why I was happy, it was impossible to share when I did want to share.
When do two or three people ever sit together and watch bees cycle through their day in a silence full of their buzzing, and leave that silence empty of any human awkwardness and discomfort?
I told myself to stop thinking about it, to enjoy it right now and let the frustration come later. What would other people think of me sitting here? A dangerous question, no doubt, but I wasn’t invested in it. I asked it merely for the sake of contemplation. What would they think? I told myself I didn’t care but I was a little mad at myself for thinking it.
I looked back to the bees. They must be communicating somehow. They climbed over each other without hurting anything and they all seemed to have a purpose. To take the top off of the beehive and peer down into what was no doubt a hidden, thriving community would have been a grave mistake and I knew it, yet the temptation and allure to view this invisible harmony was strong in my mind. It felt as though there was a secret hidden within the beehive. What was that sound, that resonating heartbeat coming from the hive? I knew it was their buzzing, their small wings beating to keep the temperature at the right level for their eggs to hatch.
It was all an incredible balance, but what did it mean? How could they know what we humans did not, how to live together in a fruitful web of symbiosis? They were producers after all, they made the world, they didn’t take from it. They didn’t deduct nutrients or resources; they used them to make sugar, honey and more of themselves. All while pollinating the flowers and making things grow. I felt disgrace towards humanity, why did we destroy the world? Was it because we lacked this basis, this community off of which a positive civilization was built?
In the city, in the countryside, in my school, and in my own home, I have never heard that humming, that buzzing, winding, heartbeat. It’s out there by the river, by the edge of the pond, in the highest branches of the trees, in the wind, but people don’t have it and I don’t know why.
On the front of the left hive, between the slats and amongst the fast paced life of this fantastic machine, a bee was stationary. It was hanging by its two front legs and the others crawled over and around it, none staying still. I wondered how long my eyes had been focused on this irregularity before I had noticed it. The bee was struggling. Its back legs were tangled, entwined in spiders silk and it twitched convulsively in a repeated attempt to rid itself of this hindrance. It was a losing battle that became obvious as the bees continued to work around it, crawl over it as if it were already dead and part of the wooden framework. It never fell in the time I stayed to watch.
When I left, it was still dangling there twisting its body in a vain effort to be free, to be once again apart of the community that had already forgotten it. It was time for me to re-enter my community.
I walked on stiff legs back through the petal-strewn lawn in time to meet my best friend as he walked up my driveway. We greeted each other with smiles and a rush of gossip. And leaving the house in a decision to go back outside, I grabbed my bike but I didn’t forget the bees as we pedaled, laughing, down the road.
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