Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It Takes a Village

In a special little spot on Planet Earth, a small village has been established. I took this picture of it so you could see what I am talking about. It is quite amazing, and although I have lived in this country all my life, I have never seen such a colony. It is a village of wee towers, (there are many more than this picture shows), and in these towers live a vast number of jolly, dwarf-size bumblebees. One of which is peeking in the doorway of the farthest tower in this picture. And although it doesn’t seem so, the little towers look smooth and elegantly constructed to the naked eye, although in this magnification they seem so crude.





I frequently inspect the area. The inhabitants know when they are being watched. They sing loudly and dart about as if agitated, but they never attack so Hub and I assume they are non-aggressive. Either that, or they are too busy, far too busy, for a fight.

And so, I watch them work and wonder if each of them has, and knows, their own particular abode. I think they do, but they freely visit the homes of others. I saw one bee pop into several little towers before eventually descending into one where he stayed for a time. That final stop must have been his own wee hut, but the protocol of his cluster environment compelled him to stop to say a quick and cheery good morning to his neighbors.

Yesterday there were probably ten or more elegant towers in the village, but after a rain, although the construction is in a protected spot under a narrow eave, it looked as if the colony had endured an earthquake. Little towers tumbled over every which way and many broken. I felt so bad when I saw the destruction and quite puzzled at how such damage occurred.

I stayed awake most of the night feeling dismal about the carnage in the little village. Too early I was up to see if repairs were being done and how the work was going. I was surprised. There was the little village of towers looking as clean and neat as a pin. No towers toppled. None broken. All in excellent repair. I planned to take a picture but decided it could wait until after breakfast.

After breakfast I went out and to my dismay, again many of the towers were toppled or damaged. Still repairs were underway. One had a good quarter inch of new construction that was still wet. And then I had to wonder, ‘Could these little bees do that much repair in so short a time when the work they do is comparable to working with atom-sized stones fashioned from one microscopic drop of spittal and one grain of sand?’ Comparative, it would seem, to our efforts to build a full-size basement with a truck load of concrete and nothing to mix and move it except a two cup measure and a soup ladle.
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Now I have torn down or burned more than my share of bee’s nests in my time, either for amusement, or for fear of being stung. I have never felt guilt or remorse about doing that. I have never let any thought occupy my mind about how much patience and diligent work it took to construct those nests. But when you see bee’s building homes out of mud, so representative of our own houses, their efforts become a lot more relevant. And also, there is another pattern of life similar to our own, when I see them forming small communities. And a pattern of life similar to my own represented by their tiny huts and narrow streets.

And so, when I see such a village, with goings on so closely patterned after my own environment, I begin to feel truly distressed about the work involved in the building, and the sorrow and heartbreak of the destruction of that long, patient, and diligent effort – by a few tiny little bees.

And so, now in summation, what I need to tell you is that as one ages, we toughen up quite a bit. Tears come less often. Discouragements, though sad, are dismissed with a shrug. But at the same time, deep within there is a new softness forming. And harbored within that softness, is more pathos – pity for the helpless; and more ethos – greater attempts to be a better person. It is the way of an aging heart and aging flesh.

And so, I appease my guilt in this particular matter, by vowing to never rip down another bee’s nest if there is any kind of slight possibility that we can get along. And to vow I will not harm those little mud towers (I screamed at Hub to get out of there with his shovel). And while I’m forming these new resolutions, I might as well include a vow to nevermore scramble ant piles.

Surely, for my own peace of mind, it is better to change the things I can, than simply assume that mistakes of my past cannot be altered.

8 comments:

anne partain said...

Hi Roberta, A few years ago a wood spiders decided to make a web in the porch above our front door. It was so beautiful that I wouldn't knock it down. It stayed through part of the summer and the fall and in the winter, I guess it froze, it got stiff and fell down.
When company would come they would stop dead in their tracks. (She was pretty big, maybe about 4 inches long) I would have to go out and get them and assure them that they were safe. That lovely lady never hurt any one, or lunged at us or anything threatening. I'd talk to her when I went in the door. I know it was a female because she left an egg sack when she went. I know there are some dangerous insects and I wouldn't mess with them, but isn't it so wonderful to just live and let live? Thanks for the post. I enjoyed it.

Scotia said...

"And so, now in summation, what I need to tell you is that as one ages, we toughen up quite a bit. Tears come less often. Discouragements, though sad, are dismissed with a shrug. But at the same time, deep within there is a new softness forming. And harbored within that softness, is more pathos – pity for the helpless; and more ethos – greater attempts to be a better person. It is the way of an aging heart and aging flesh."

Absolutely beautiful... and it echoes my own feelings perfectly. With 40 on the horizon, I've felt myself shifting gradually toward this outlook.

norasnovel said...

And, if you hadn't looked so closely and tenderly, you'd never have known all this marvelous activity was going on. One more example of the wonders of the universe! (And you portray it so well.)

Roberta S said...

Hi anne pertain, I so much enjoyed reading that comment. Obviously your spider resident would be so enthralled and pleased to know that others (in this case, you) refer to her as 'the lovely lady'.

Also I must add, I was not impressed when I googled mud-daubers on the net, only to find sites on how to destroy them and their homes rather than information on how to appreciate and understand them. Makes me wonder where and why, on the spectrum of size and weight and brain size, the pertinence of preservation of 'critters' so suddenly turns back on itself to a pertinence of complete and utter annihilation.

Roberta S said...

Hi scotia, so pleased to have you visit.

Your comment makes me wax even more philosophical. So many young people assume old people are completely different from them. I wish we could make them understand that all that has really happened to make us 'different' is that life-experiences have expanded our hearts, and minds and hugs to bigger wraps and a broader containment, while still remaining the same person we have always been.

Thank you for understanding and acknowledging the theme of my story.

Roberta S said...

Thank you nora. Thanks for reading - so pleased you found enjoyment here in such a wee and winsome web of thoughts.

S L Cunningham said...

Hi, Roberta:

Came by for a visit, and loved reading "It Takes a Village." You're beginning to develop a deft hand when comes to writing the personal essay. Liked the detail about the bee popping in to the other bee abodes to visit with neighbors.

More than that, I like how you tied all this in to the larger human aspect. To have something you have worked so hard on to build only to experience its destruction by some fickle act of nature is something all of us can relate to.

Scot

Roberta S said...

Hi Scot. I always feel truly honored when you stop by and today it was rather unexpectedly. Thanks for the unexpected visit and the encouraging comments. Much appreciated.