My journey with bees has taken me many places: the deserts of Arizona, southern hills of Virginia, the foothills of the Colorado Mountains, and the rooftops of New York City. It has also brought me in to the classrooms of your children’s schools, in to the board rooms of the Calgary Zoo, the science labs of Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary, and more importantly, in to the kitchens and dinner tables of your family and friends. For this, I will always be infinitely grateful to the community and to the bees. But, the longest and most challenging journey that the bees have taken me on has been diving in to myself.
The bees, in their divine wisdom and ability to teach, I have learned more about myself in the past two years then I have learned in my short lifetime. They have challenged me beyond belief, encouraging me to learn about their altruism, ability to care for the community as a mother, but more importantly, teaching me that knowing your role in the whole picture allows for the flow of nature and the resilience to survive. I truly believe in this. The bees have taught me that although one may be a leader, whether a nurse to her sisters, caring for the young and teaching the new how to become a member of the tribe, or a forager responsible to share the sweet nectar she has found, and offering directions for safe and direct travels to the source. She has taught me that there are no true leaders, there are but individuals all playing their part in the whole. A moving part in the super-organism. Knowing these lessons and trying to live by them are two different things.
This fall has been a period of deep reflection for me, a time to look back on the past two summers of bees, and offer myself a chance to breathe. The achievements which I have taken on and completed in such a short period of time include: bringing bees to Calgary (over 75 colonies), taught over 150 students how to keep bees, ran a collaborative purchase of beekeeping equipment with over 125 participants, started a private and free chatroom for local beekeepers to connect at thecommunityhive.org, started a non-profit organization called The Community Pollinator Foundation dedicated to research and educational programming on native pollinator species around Calgary, rescued over 35 bumblebee colonies, caught over 10 swarms throughout the city in 2011, taught in over 25 classrooms in less than 3 months, put in an educational installation at the Calgary Zoo Canadian Wilds Exhibit area on native solitary bees, as well as spoken at over 75 events, collaborated with the Unitarian Church of Calgary, the Calgary Horticultural Society, and the Calgary Zoos Master Gardener Program, Verge Permaculture, DirtCraft Natural Building, and Big Sky Permaculture, as well as travelling extensively throughout the United States, mentoring and supporting urban beekeeping movements in other cities. I have done all of this, but to what end I ask? Is this a super organism? Am I just one moving part in a whole? Am I able to become a part of the whole? If not, will this be resilient and survive the changing natures of life, the challenges that most certainly lay ahead? Can I maintain a healthy, resilient, and sane life if I am always charging ahead on my own two feet? These are the questions that I have been asking myself over and over again, and I feel that the fog is rising and I am beginning to see for the first time.
I have been feeding off of my strengths, my ability to exude and inspire action and passion to my friends and fellow bee-lovers, but in this I have pushed my weaknesses aside, and ignoring their presence. To that, I would like to apologize whole heartedly to all of you, and thank you for your patience. In spearheading and running forward, I have failed to encourage and engage your participation. How are we to be a super-organism when I am working alone? I am repeatedly reminded of the Haida story of the hummingbird, how when the forest fire loomed, and the other creatures stood concerned but unawares of what to do, the hummingbird flew to and fro, getting water and pouring it on the flames. The hummingbird, with the ambition to do something to change what she saw wrong, to rid the forest of the fire, never could put the flames out on her own. It took the community of forest animals to join forces and do what they could, in their own ways, to put the fire out. It is working together that the bees build and shape their hive architecture, it is by working together that all of the bees feed and drink, and it is by working together that Calgary will grow in to a pollinator compassionate and collaborative community. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and I guess what I am trying to say is, my weakness is an inability to seek help, and how to use help when it is offered. I want to be the hummingbird, but without her asking for help, she too would most likely be engulfed in the flames.
So, this message is to all of you, to ask you for help. To ask for your patience in my learning to be a moving part in the whole, to express need and accept help. I am seeking out those of you who are eager to be leaders in your own way, to reflect on what you feel you have to offer, and to take on a role that you see is needed, a role that I may have been unable to fulfill in my bold and blind movements forward. I am not a great delegator, which I am learning more and more through my mistakes. But, I am passionate about you, what you have to offer and doing what I can to help you in what you need. So please, if you are interested in digging your feet in and helping with any of the projects taking place, or have project ideas of your own, please contact me and let me know. We can plan a potluck, form an email list, or a page on the chatroom, a private facebook chat page, and share ideas and begin the 2012 season as a moving whole, gathering strength and momentum from one another.
Feel free to take the charge, send me your ideas, and I will do my best to make this year’s volunteer season sustainable, successful, and reliable! Thank you for everything, for making these past two years possible, for your kind words, patience, and for your continuous offers for support!
Eliese Watson, your sister bee!