To paraphrase the preamble in the March/April, 2015, issue of Orion, written by H. Emerson Blake, we cannot fly like honey bees. We cannot sense or savor the world as they do.  We kill other species, and our own, more indiscriminately than do honey bees.  We foul and savage the planet more than they do; indeed as bees go about their business not so much as a leaf is harmed.  Bees take what they need in such a way that not only is the world around them constantly improved but, through their pollination services, life is continued.  Primarily they are rearing the next generation of bees to continue their genome; secondarily they are creating the next generation of plants that will nurture those future bees. 

Yet we have one thing, one incredible gift, that, as far as we know, they do not - imagination.  

Call it what you will - creativity,  vision, inspiration, inventiveness, resourcefulness, ingenuity; originality, innovation - imagination is associated primarily with the arts, using storytelling, literature, painting, sculpting, music, dance, theater and craft as means of both expression and renewal.  Where do most bee books begin?  With pictures of neolithic paintings on rock walls in caves in India and Spain of men collecting honey using ladders and baskets high off the ground.  Life 10 000 years ago was hard - very hard - and existence uncertain, yet it was important for these Iron Age souls to express themselves in an attempt to make sense of what it means to be in the world. 

 Listening to a program on contemporary art on the car radio this afternoon, I was reminded that almost every fact a child needs to know can be found  on the internet.  So what are we teaching at school?   Certainly there is knowledge base that is important, but do we assess critically just what facts need to be part of that base?   In the early 1950’s a committee of educators, chaired by Benjamin Bloom, devised what has become known as Bloom’s Taxonomy, which emphasized the importance of being able to analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply information, rather than merely understand and regurgitate it.  And the indication of a good education is when it happens instinctively.   “Creativity is just connecting things,” argued the late Steve Jobs.   “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things.”  

 Thus creativity is more than an outlet for emotion, important as that is.    It is also the way that we attune ourselves to our surroundings,  that we realize our potential to adapt and change as required by our environment. “Poetry is all about freedom,” writes the British poet, David Whyte.  “Not the freedom from things but the freedom to be completely in the experience, and therefore to change your perspectives on that experience completely, and to actually allow yourself to be somebody new in that discovery. Poetry is the art of letting yourself say things you didn’t know you knew.”

Read those last two  sentences from David White again, this time with your honey bee activities in mind.  And then do the same with these words from Deepak Chokra : “Enlightened leadership is spiritual if we understand spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, insight and focused attention.”

 The EAS meeting in Guelph, Ontario, last month was a thought-provoking experience. I sat through hours of research-based lectures, each with imposing power point slides, and when I came to type up my notes on the flight home, they covered less than two pages.  Perhaps I am at the point in my growth as a beekeeper where I have to listen extensively to unearth those vital nuggets that enlarge or change my perception.   Everyone of those gems comes in a larger context, connects with what I already know, and creates a larger truth with enhanced compassion and love for the amazing world of the honey bee,

 What did stay with me from those days in Guelph were the discussions around the breakfast table, or on the bus, or at the book-signing table, with people like Les Eccles, Phil Craft, and Mark Winston, when the language and the topic were more personal, more directly relevant to my needs in my apiary.

 And this in part is why the theme of this year’s Pennsylvania State conference in November is titled, “Beekeeping as the Poetry of Agriculture.”  It is a reminder that managing honey bees is both an art and a science, and the key is being able to make the connections between our observations and our reading, our senses and our knowledge, and to “…experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, insight and focused attention.”  Indeed everything one finds in a  great work of art. 

“Go to your fields and gardens

And you shall learn it is the pleasure of the bee

To gather honey of the flower.

But it is the pleasure of the flower

To yield its honey to the bee.

For to the bee a flower is the fountain of life.

And to the flower, a bee is a messenger of love.”

Kahil Gibran, The Prophet, 1923. 















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Latest comments

27.11 | 16:01

Moustache, wax? Of course. Now if all of the drones had mustaches ...

27.11 | 12:43

One of our club members says he got into beekeeping in order to make his own mustache wax. There's the explanation for the bearded/mustached ABF attendees!

13.08 | 05:43

Good morning Mr. Barnes, I'm so pleased to see the best of history teachers is still going strong! Looking at your website brings back some great memories

21.05 | 07:18

Its pleasure to read about Boy Scout here. He plays vital role to serve humanity. I will share after my