“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” — Matt. 6:28-30
Earlier this year, we viewed “The Pollinators” at church. The documentary chronicles the lives of beekeepers who ensure that America’s orchards and fields are pollinated by trucking hives from Maine to California, timing their arrival to coincide with spring blooms. It was a fascinating look at the deft dance that makes our produce purchases possible. It was also scary. Prevalent use of pesticides and infestations of mites routinely cause the collapse of bee colonies. However, climate change is the biggest threat to bees. Heatwaves, floods, and hurricanes destroy hives, reduce food sources, and lower plant diversity.
Inspired by the film, Duane and I decided to join the “No Mow May” effort, letting our back lawn grow. The dandelions were prolific, the forget-me-nots abundant, and the grass grew long. These important early sources of pollen were a boon to bees, which happily buzzed from bloom to bloom. As June arrived, we mowed portions of the back lawn and cut some paths through what we began to call “The Meadow.” More beautiful wildflowers appeared: lupines, Queen Anne’s Lace, cardinal flower, evening primrose, and goldenrod.
Best of all, our meadow was a haven not only for bees but for other wildlife. Hummingbirds perched on our pole bean tower and skirmished over nectar. A fat and sassy groundhog appeared, munched on mallow, and ate up all my peas. One morning, part of the meadow lay flat where deer had bedded down for the night.
Our small effort to be hospitable to bees brought joy all summer. It also prompted reflection on the wonder and wisdom of God’s good work in creation. All creatures occupy a God-given niche on this planet. They do so with great elegance and sophistication. We can choose to live in ways that allow that great web of being to flourish as God intended. It can be as simple as skipping the May mowing and allowing an experiment in honey bee hospitality to bear witness to the infinite creativity and wisdom of the Holy One, who prizes the lilies of the field and loves us enough to die for us.
Let’s walk gently into the fall with great love for the world around us—and one another.
“Goldenrod” by Mary Oliver
in fall fields,
in rumpy bunches,
saffron and orange and pale gold,
in little towers,
soft as mash,
sneeze-bringers and seed-bearers,
full of bees and yellow beads and perfect flowerlets
and orange butterflies.
I don’t suppose
much notice comes of it, except for honey,
and how it heartens the heart with its
I don’t suppose anything loves it, except, perhaps,
the rocky voids
filled by its dumb dazzle.
I was just passing by, when the wind flared
and the blossoms rustled,
and the glittering pandemonium
leaned on me.
I was just minding my own business
when I found myself on their straw hillsides,
citron and butter-colored,
and was happy, and why not?
Are not the difficult labors of our lives
full of dark hours?
And what has consciousness come to anyway, so far,
that is better than these light-filled bodies?
on their airy backbones
they toss in the wind,
they bend as though it was natural and godly to bend,
they rise in a stiff sweetness,
in the pure peace of giving
one’s gold away.”
in New and Selected Poems, Mary Oliver. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992, pg. 17.
2 thoughts on “Walk Gently”
Re The Pollinators… and golden rod…
As a kid growing up up on Virginia Street in Saranac Lake during WW II, my brother Scott and I were grand parented.
Our grand father, kept turkeys and bees. We had quite a few hives and he trained (discipled) me as he tended them. He got “swarmed” once, stung more than a hundred times. He was in all kinds of grief but came out of it with his arthritis gone. We later found out that this happens from time to time.
By age 11, I had gotten pretty good at donning my netted bee-hat and gloves and sleeves and catching off a split swarm and transplanting it into a new hive if he was still at work. I could also collect honey… and help my grandmother strip the honeycomb in the kitchen in the fall.
Late, as winter closed in the bees became more or less dormant and we would with great care and effort move them across the street, into the house, up the stairs, and up a ladder into the warm attic where, wrapped in blankets, they wouldn’t freeze on the the -40*F nights.
In the spring and summer the neighborhood had great flower displays plus the wild flowers in he adjacent woods… The honey was great.
Mrs. Florence Leonard, a fine lady of great wisdom, taught we kids in the Presbyterian Church Sunday School class. She was in her eighties and often did flannel graphs. I recall Her take on Joshua taking Israel into the land of milk and honey.
Russ Newell (age 88)
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Thank you, Russell, for sharing your memories of growing up on Virginia Street in the good care of your grandparents. I could imagine the swarm and the wintertime hive, swaddled in blankets and kept safe in the warm attic. We still have a flannel story board for teaching with small children at the Presbyterian Church. What fun to imagine Mrs. Leonard doing the same! Take good care and keep the faith.