Last year the oak trees behind our pool were alive with buzzing bees. Always, at any time of day or night, we could hear the loud humming, like millions of tiny engines revving up endlessly. Each twig and leaf quivered in the golden glow of their soft fuzzy bodies.
They liked to sip from our pool, gliding in so softly as not to break the water’s tension while they sipped and flew away again—when they were lucky. Many weren’t, paddling furiously with their tiny wings to lift themselves into the air, or floating listlessly, exhausted, as if in despair, or already dead.
Each day before we swam we’d skim the pool, rescuing hundreds of bees, dropping them over the fence into the oak groves. But that didn’t stop them from joining us while we swam.
I’d watch them while doing laps, pushing them out of the way, or stopping to cup them in handfuls of water to set them on the patio, where they’d sit in puddles, then stumble to dry ground, becoming a blur of rapidly pumping wings until they were dry enough to fly away. Or back into the pool for another drink.
We must have saved thousands of bees that summer, and I took some small pleasure in knowing I was helping to sustain a threatened species hugely important to the propagation of plants, if stories of the bees’ demise are true.
I was looking forward to the humming trees this summer, but sadly the oaks are silent.
Our daughter is not so sad. She is terrified of bees.
This is the same woman who is an avid skydiver and surfer, who hikes through the wilderness as an archeologist, completely undaunted by the threat of mountain lions, rattle snakes or bears.
I’ve seen her jump from planes at 14,000 feet to join hands with other skydivers, creating fantastic formations while competing in record-breaking competitions.
I’ve heard tales of her surfing dangerous breaks off Point Conception where the only way out of the sea was to time the waves that could crush her against the rocks if she wasn’t careful, so she climb out with her board safely. I’ve also heard of her encounters with bears in the wild, including one amusing tale of the bear trying to hide behind a small bush, apparently unaware that its own tremendous bulk was in full view.
But a single buzzing bee will send her scrambling, slapping wildly, for safety.
We’re not sure where this terror of bees came from. Perhaps it was when a swarm of bees came swooping into our front yard when she was a toddler, and her father grabbed her and her brother under his arms and ran into the house. Or maybe when she swallowed a bee that stung the inside of her mouth that summer when she was only five.
Her most frightening encounter happened when we were living aboard our sailboat La Gitana, anchored at La Paz, Mexico.
She and her brother and a few friends were exploring El Mogote, a sandbar covered in mangrove jungles that encloses the harbor.
They motored their dinghies through narrow channels surrounded by low-hanging branches. Kelli stood in the bow, watching out for shallow water that could foul the engine.
The mosquitos were fierce that day and she swung a towel over her head to keep them away while she scanned the water.
Inadvertently she swatted a nest of wasps that came tumbling down into the boat. Kelli was covered in stings before she could dive under the water for safety.
Now I like to think that each bee whose life I saved was an accumulation of good bee karma. Like bees who gather nectar from flowers, converting it to honey to deposit into the cells of its hive, so I gathered drowning bees from the water, and each golden body I saved, like a drop of honey, was converted into good and deposited in a bee karma account in my daughter’s name.
Kelli, may you forevermore be surrounded by the protective, golden glow of good bee karma.