Asking the Bees — Nicole Sallak Anderson
It was a perfect day today to apply a “501 horn silica” biodynamic preparation on the land. A medicine best taken with sunrise; it nourishes the flowers as well as the bees. Since becoming a bee guardian over a decade ago, I’ve applied this prep every spring as a means of celebrating the start of swarm season, as well as the springtime bouquets popping up around the yard. It’s also a perfect way to welcome the new hive that has joined us recently.
I woke early and my husband and I stirred the fine power of crushed quartz in our buckets for an hour, watching the world wake. The flowers were quiet as we finished stirring and made our way around the land, spraying a fine mist of the concoction on every living being, even the empty spaces where nothing yet exists. I love this part of biodynamic gardening-walking the property at dawn is always a special time to meet the plants, especially since the fire, for every time I return here someone new has arrived-flowers I’ve never seen before, sprouting here and there, tufts of grasses already knee-high, and wildflowers I planted as seeds in January now swaying in the sweet, morning breeze.
It amazes me how this burned-out land has turned into a new Eden before my eyes.
As I approached the new hive, I witnessed the early gatherers leaving for their first pollen run of the day. I sprayed the mist around the hive, welcoming them, and telling them what might be happening today. Of course, a mere hour later, contractors showed up that I didn’t know were coming, so the day’s plans were wrong from the start, but I told the bees this as well-since the fire, I never know what work will need to be tended to. It’s like those first months after a baby is born and you try to anticipate their needs, but really, there’s no schedule and the best you can hope for is that everyone is alive at the end of the day.
Alive at the end of the day. That’s exactly what this is all about. We are alive at the end of the day.
I paused at the top of the land and gazed upon the landscape-alive, despite being engulfed in flame less than two years ago, pulsing with the joy of creation, the joy of being left behind.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now that feels quite scary. War, inflation, plagues, government control, divisive rhetoric, social media illness spreading faster than the plague itself, wildfires, ecosystem collapse, housing insecurity. I went to breakfast a few weeks ago with some fire friends, a beautiful and powerful couple, who lost their house when I did. While we were having coffee, the fires in New Mexico were threatening their second home, a retreat cabin they’ve owned for 30 years. Can you imagine it? To have lost your primary home in a wildfire and then lose your second home, several states away, to the same fate. Fortunately, their home was spared, but this is not out of the ordinary here in the West. A friend of mine lost her home to the fires in August 2020. In August of 2021, she was on vacation at an Airbnb in another part of the state and had to evacuate as fire raged through the town. I’ve met folks on the California Wildfire Survivor Facebook group who lost a home in the 2007 fires in southern California which prompted them to move north and then lost their homes to flames again last year.
Can you imagine it?
As my friends and I were discussing the Great Reset, the Great Turning, and the spaces between, one said, “We are in the tribulation.”
As he spoke, I recalled the day a neighbor had told me in early May 2011 that the rapture was coming, and she was concerned for my fate. She believed I would be left behind, and that I needed to repent. I penned an essay about it back then, but in a nutshell, as I listened to her and allowed her pretentiousness to wash over me and feel the grief and fear that really drove her to approach me, I knew without a doubt that I nothing to fear. I told her, “Why would I leave just as I was needed? No, I was born to be left behind.”
She quieted and in the silence I offered to get her dog, should she be taken in the rapture. She mumbled something about her sinful son already promising to care for the pup and we never spoke about it again. She’s still here, so either the rapture didn’t happen, or there were very, very few included in God’s gift of ascension just before the tumultuous age in which he would inflict various pains upon his people.
As I stood in my private Eden, watching the lavender come alive with bees as the sun rises higher in the sky, I wondered, is this the tribulation? I closed my eyes and recalled the day I first visited after the fire-the ash blowing in the wind, nothing left of my stuff except the twisted forms of cast iron woodstoves, the orange skies for months as the world burned around us-yes, it was like a scene from Revelation. Yet, here I stand, among the flowers, and feel nothing but peace.
What if the tribulation and the New Eden are one and the same? From ashes to ashes, dust to dust, but also from sunrise to sunrise, and swarm season to swarm season? All of it is the tribulation and the new dawn, and all of it is happening at the same time.
Left Behind, But Not Alone
Honeybees are magical creatures, and the world of their hive is a golden web of cooperation and love. Yet, all the magic of the honeybee could not save an improperly placed hive, one I’d put under a madrone in a land that burns at regular intervals. The hive itself still stands, but the comb inside got too hot and killed the bees as it turned to blazing wax. I buried those bees in the meadow, close to the goats’ grave, and cleaned the hive in preparation for the new set of bees I recently welcomed to the apiary.
One hive did survive. Their name is “Erleichda” from Tom Robbins’s classic, Jitterbug Perfume. It means, lighten up, and honeybees are nothing but sunshine in furry, little bodies. As I walked among the ruins of my home and land that day in September 2020, it was Erleichda that gave me hope. I remember seeing the hive beyond the heaping ash pile of my home, the bees buzzing in and out of the front porch, and my heart pounding in my chest. Could they be alive? The land around them was ash, but the hive still stood. I approached, swallowing the pain balling up inside of my throat, grief still fresh from knowing my goats and cat had died. When I opened the window on the side of the hive and peeked in, the sight was too beautiful, and my knees gave out. The hive was alive and thriving. I knelt before them, like a child in church, crying, not tears of joy, but rather tears of understanding-they’d also been left behind.
I’ve long been in the habit of telling the bees, but since the fire, I’ve also begun asking them what I should do. As I revealed my plans post-fire, they showed me new ones. In flashes of images within my mind’s eye, hunches, books, synchronicities, birds, and even social media posts in my newsfeed. Always, they were talking to me, and they used the land and the field of life around me to do so. Step by step, they gave me a new plan. Moreover, they taught me how to be left behind-to live with the chaos of this world’s ending.
I was born to be left behind, and so was Erleichda. They’re still showing me how to tend to the land and the world in the age of devastation. They also teach me to enjoy what is here, right now. To see the new Eden as she sprouts from the ashes. To plant the seeds and build the structures for human and planetary life. To be alive and aware and awake to the pain and suffering as well as the beauty.
I’m forever changed, that’s what grief does to you. I’m not sure I will ever get over the loss of my pets nor some of the trees. This was made clear to me recently when I was packing up my things to take to Chicago. I’d been a bass player before the fire, and someone kindly gave me an amplifier and bass just after since I’d left mine behind to the flames. As I considered whether to keep the instrument, it hit me that I hadn’t touched it once. The last time I played, was the night before I evacuated, when I took my acoustic bass and a bottle of wine out to the deck and played every song I knew for D’ougal, the great 250 ft. tall fir tree of my heart. I’d played for hours-he died a day later, engulfed in flames. It’s the same with my cat; I can’t look at a Siamese without tears. A friend asked me if I wanted a spinning wheel and when I remembered how I’d spin the goats fur each winter, I felt the wound of that loss tear open once again.
I asked the bees this morning if they missed the goats in their meadow. Oh, yes, they do. They will never stop missing them. Neither will I. Yet, they remind me of what the trees already know, “What will be, will be.”
The tribulation changes us, hurts us, and stings. The world as we know it is ending, and yet, here we are, still dancing. We didn’t start the fire, but we must endure it none-the-less.
Originally published at https://nicolesallakanderson.com on May 5, 2022.