Today's small beauty is about a bee, and about finding beauty in the not beautiful. I am dedicating all of today's beauties to her. She has taught me a lot and the lessons are still settling. And she had a life that was bright and new.
On Monday's I go to a school by a little river; often I see a heron there and we stand quietly together in good company. Lately there have been increasing numbers of moorhens, running wildly across the grass when I come near. Today, there was a bumblebee. I saw her as soon as I walked into the school playground. No doubt having just woken up from her winter sleep on a warm January day, she had landed where many small feet were running carelessly by. I knew that she would be trodden on and that it would be best to move her to somewhere safer. Just as I saw her some of the children saw her too. Several screamed and were afraid of being stung. I explained that she wouldn't sting us and that it would be good for her not to be where she was. We scooped her gently up on some paper and one small boy, very gently and with great concentration, took her to the school's 'quiet garden' where he placed her on their bug hotel.
By then I was surrounded by small girls who were both fascinated and frightened by the shiny new Queen Bee so we spent some time talking about what she was doing and why it would be best to leave her alone. There was much discussion of the life-cycle of bumblebees, and some continued screaming, whilst the bee continued her business of waking and sunning her wings. I hoped to leave her safely there but it was not to be. The girls wanted to 'look after' her, as children will, and collected grass for her to eat and to make her a house. They named her Bella. It was a sweet thing but they were only seven years old and couldn't really understand that she was vulnerable and needed peace. They wanted to hold her, which I asked them not to do, and made her a house without too much care for her small body. At one point she sat on my hand and it was as though I could feel her tiny heart beating, could see the stardust on her translucent wings. But I had to go.
I was late for a meeting and so I suggested that we placed her in some dead leaves by the bug hotel so that she would be warm and sheltered from the rain that was threatening to fall. The Queen was having none of it and began to climb up the bug hotel, at one point almost falling foul of a rather beautiful spider. There was more screaming. I explained that spiders have to live too and that this is nature in all her wonder. Then the girls saw some worms on the ground and screamed some more. I explained about worms and all that they do for us, that we have 25 native species in the British Isles and during the autumn they do the work of recycling the fallen leaves of the 1000 million deciduous trees,which is why Aristotle called them the 'intestines of the soil'. Without them we would be drowning in rotting leaves. I have a lot of love for earthworms. In the end I had to go. The Queen seemed safe and I asked the girls not to touch her. I hoped for the best for her small and new life.
Later another child and I went into the garden on our own to look for flowers. When I walked over to the bug hotel I saw the Queen tangled in cobwebs and stuck to a stick, which perhaps the girls had used to try to rescue her from the web. I very gently removed what I could and then left her tucked away where she would be able to free herself or die in peace.
The story of the Queen has effected me deeply and touched upon old grief and new tears. Part of me wishes that when I found her I had taken her out of the playground and put her safely elsewhere, but I hope that the children learned something from being in her presence. I hope that what happened today was her true dreaming and why she was there and that we all played our parts in her story well. I wish that the ending had been otherwise. She was new and bright as a sunbeam and had the right to hope for more, and yet not all lives are meant to be lived as we might imagine and some beings have other journeys to make. I'm not sure what my lessons from today are yet, acceptance is one, letting go, the intimacy that we can share with other species, how woven in we all are to each other's lives, how one decision can change everything. There will be more but, for now, I thank her and honour her for her presence and for her wild wisdom.
I am reminded that Dave Goulson, who wrote the wonderful book on bees 'ASting in the Tale', founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and who has dedicated his life to spreading knowledge of, and love for, bees, began his bee-loving career when, as a small child, he found some bumblebees who were wet from the rain and very carefully tried to dry them on an aga, which led to an equally sad end. A friend told me that, when she too was very small, she collected some bees in a jar and put them in her shed to keep. She was horrified when she later found them dead, and regrets it to this day, but now as an artist she creates much love for nature and encourages all children, and adults, to rescue bees, worms, and spiders when they need help. Another told me a story of her friend's autistic son accidentally standing on a baby bird, not understanding what that meant and so being very carefully taught about empathy and caring for the small, wild things of life. He went on to study biology at university and now uses his special skills to work with environments, saving countless lives. Another that the light of empathy was switched on in a group of small boys when they were discussing whether they should torture a frog they had found ~ they decided not to, freed the frog, and the light never went out. I am sure that I remember many moments of being equally careless of the lives of small things when I was little and yet now I have become a person who once stopped a bus full of people because a frog was struggling to get up the curb and who cries over the life of a small bumblebee who woke up from her winter sleep too soon. Sometimes the deepest awareness, the greatest weaving of connection, and the wildest devotion to what matters comes from painful and yet seemingly insignificant moments. And that is beautiful.
This is a sad tale but some days finding small beauties in deep sadness and in the not beautiful is what we must do and I hope that from the life of the Queen much magic and care for nature will grow in the small hearts that she touched, just as she touched mine. I will remember her.