I recently had the unique experience of interviewing two blind beekeepers from the Netherlands named Tinah Bee and Jan Bee (Tinah and Jan Visser). My friend Debra Roberts (naturalistic beekeeper extraordinaire) hosted us at her home and so we filmed the interview in a gorgeous setting, on a gorgeous day, with approximately 250,000 gorgeous bees busily working in the background. As with so many things since I started The Good of the Hive initiative, this was another ‘first’ for me. I had never conducted an interview and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. My style is not generally to fire questions at people… next time I think I will adopt a more Charlie Rose/conversational setting. But I am getting used to that raw, juicy feeling of doing something for the first time and so it made for a day of learning and experience on levels I hadn’t even thought about. (If you are reading this, Jan and Tinah, thank you for your patience with a novice interviewer.) We all have to start somewhere… and although I was shaking in my boots, I loved every minute of it. In an email exchange with Tinah after the interview –with her feather-light touch of wisdom, she wrote, “…our conversation for me felt like a Dance, round and round and round up until we finally could find the Center, the moment when came to talk about the Dept of Sharing and Connection.”
Yes… the dept of sharing and connection.
There are many different vantage points from which to enter the world of the bees, but I am finding that there are common themes that everyone who gets bit by the ‘bee bug’ comes to understand deeply. The bees symbolize a depth of sharing and connection that we, as humans long for in our lives, but achieve only in fleeting moments. We all long for that feeling of being a part of something greater than us. And most of us have found fleeting periods of it here and there. Maybe it was through a sports team, a campaign we rallied for, or an activist movement or the slow building of a family.
The first memory I have of that feeling was found in being a part of the 1993 March on Washington. I was a 23 year-old gay kid that had never known there were THAT many other gay people in the world. I certainly had never seen that many of us out in broad daylight together. The feeling of peace and connection amidst that group shifted me at my core. As I marched, I was hit with a feeling of connection. My boyfriend at the time and I marched with Alaska because Massachusetts and NY (our respective states) were overflowing with people. Including us, there were 11 Alaskans. Our chant was “We’re here, we’re queer. We’re from the last frontier!” As I marched along with that group I connected with a part of myself for the first time. A part that I hadn’t even realized was disconnected. But recognizing it is one thing and knowing and acting upon the connection is another thing altogether.
The honeybee is born with mastery over being an individual bee and a part of a collective hive. Whether we are born with that mastery or not, it is gone by the time we are adults. Ask any hungry kid living just around the corner from someone with enough money to feed them. Or ask any one of us that knows this is going on and still do not find time to help. Connection is something we need to learn. The consequences of disconnection are real. I often hear a question in my head, “What are the bees dying ‘for?’”
I believe that they are telling us it is time to look at the world in a different way.
And a humble, blind beekeeper from the Netherlands shed some new light on my understanding this very thing… Tinah spoke about how there is no ‘dark' for her. She said something like, “Sighted people think my world is dark. But there can only be dark if there is light. But it is neither dark nor light to me. There is only what is.” As a painter who understands everything in his literal and metaphorical world through the relationship of dark to light, this was a paradigm shifter. It seemed a relief that there may be another option. “Yes,” I thought, “Door number three please!” It is through experience that we understand. So what if we remove the light and dark aspects and simply ask, “What is?” And then, when ready, go a tad further and ask, “What is good?”
Things need to change. Nobody is debating that… and I believe that through connection they can. I need only look at the arc of change from that 1993 March on Washington to now.
Just as the forager bees follow the path that the dancing scout bees suggest, I feel as though Tinah and Jan have given me yet another path to follow on my journey of discovery… I will likely go round and round and round many times in this process, but it is all part of the adventure and I will dance when I can as the bees lead the way.
Stay tuned for the full interview and video at TheGoodoftheHive.com