Of Bees, Hummingbirds, and Us

Every day, the little hummingbird with the nest in the tree outside my house is sitting on her eggs when I pass by.

This week, a friend showed a few of us the bee hives he’s been keeping for three years without the bees making enough honey to harvest.

In both cases, I am amazed at the patience in these simple acts. My friend checks his hives once a week, each time suiting up, smoking the bees to confuse and settle them, and gently shifting and checking each rack. That’s 156 weeks so far, give or take.

Wildflowers, on the other hand, spring up with the first good dose of sunshine and warmth in a rainy year. Patience doesn’t seem to be their thing, yet this year’s crop must have lain dormant as seeds for years during the drought—the same drought that caused low honey production.

Inside each pound of honey is the nectar of two million wildflowers. I don’t know whether you can call the life of a worker bee a patient one as she gathers the nectar or whether she’s only doing what she knows how to do.

Maybe we know how to move through the world without rushing, to wait and give that which is coming into being our full attention, to allow ripeness to come in its own time. Maybe all we have to do is tune into that knowing.

There are times to do nothing but sit on the eggs and times to spring up and push through the earth, seasons to gather nectar and seasons to hang out in the hive eating honey. Nothing we do can hurry those along. Nothing can change periods best suited to waiting into moments that require action or vice versa.

The fullness of life comes in its own time. To participate in its coming and enjoy its fruits we need most of all to pay attention.

3 thoughts on “Of Bees, Hummingbirds, and Us

  1. I wish I could live like the bees and the hummingbird and the wildflowers. It’s a different kind of attention. One that’s in tune.

  2. It never really occurred to me that hummingbirds could sit still long enough to keep their little eggs warm. It really goes against type, the notion of a patient hummingbird.
    I suppose the patient cultivation of something is sustained by a current of faith that the sustained effort will yield joy and value. I see this sort of constancy as a core virtue and strength. I aspire to it.
    Your last lines remind me of a beautiful aphorism on happiness that I heard a while back. The idea is that happiness is a transient and recurrent phenomenon that undulates through life. When it is in full bloom we should relish it with gratitude. However, when it disappears we should not grasp after it, knowing that in time it will return. The Zen master who spoke of this used the metaphors of an insect and a beautiful butterfly. If we allow happiness to take flight it will appear as beautiful butterfly. However, if we attempt capture it in our grasp it will appear as an insect.
    This was a piece of wisdom that I found solace in when Bodhi died. I still feel the sadness of his passing, but Goliath is now here and he is a great source of happiness.

  3. I missed this with a busy early May, but am happy for it as I was for today’s piece on seeing beauty everywhere. Also happy for the comment of Markus (above), his reminder that “sustained effort will yield joy and value.” Currently I’m working to keep my heart open to someone I know is struggling. It’s not her fault, but her “pinching” words make it difficult to love her. Then I get quiet and see clearly how she wasn’t loved well over the years…..it’s clear she years for love and God gave her to me for practice opening my heart to “one of the least of his”… Grateful Thanks as always.

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