When I was mowing last week, I happened to look down into the inside of one of our tulip blossoms and saw a honey bee lying on her side at the bottom.
She was clearly dead, but there was something peaceful and poignant in the way her little body curled around the base of the stamen. I wondered how she had happened to die there while in service to the queen and to her hive (and to all of us, I suppose, who eat honey). I like to imagine that she was an old bee who had already toiled for weeks, building honeycomb nurseries and foraging for pollen and nectar. Maybe she grew tired in the warm spring sun and lay down in the velvety petal softness to rest, her body dusted with golden pollen and her stomach full of nectar. But there, her old weary body gave out at last. A pretty sweet way for a honey bee to go. I couldn’t say exactly why, but the sight of that little honeybee moved me.
Yesterday, I was weeding in our back flowerbed when I grew tired and stopped for a moment. There was a faint cool breeze caressing my arms, but the afternoon sun warmed me down to my winter-weary bones. The heat of the sun was warming the lilac blossoms, too, and the breeze was blowing their sweet aroma my way. I breathed in deeply and closed my eyes. I could hear the sound of the Rufous-sided Towhee telling me to “Drink your TEA!” and our resident mockingbird singing frenetically through his impressive repertoire, sounding almost demented in his frenzy. He always makes me smile, especially when I hear him singing in the dark of night.
It was then I remembered the honeybee with her gold-dusted body curled so sweetly in the bottom of the tulip. As silly as it may sound, I sat there in the sun, my eyes closed, and imagined myself lying in the bottom of that soft, light-filled tulip blossom, drowsing in the warmth of the spring sun. I wasn’t filled with nectar as the honey bee must have been, but I felt a certain peace suffuse my spirit.
Last weekend, we were startled awake at 3:30 in the morning by the ringing of the phone. Like most people, I was filled with dread at the sound. Phone calls in the middle of the night are never good. It was Ariel. She had awakened in the night in her dorm room with the worst pain she’d ever had. “Should I go to the emergency room?” she said. Bless her—I know she was thinking of what it would cost us.
“Yes, yes…go!” I said. It’s awful being 250 miles away when your child is in pain. But Ariel’s good friend and roommate, Catherine, went with her and stayed with her the whole time. We fretted at home, worrying that it was appendicitis. We couldn’t believe it was happening to us for the second time in four months.
But this time, according to the emergency room doctor (who Catherine said looked like Dr. McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy), it was kidney stones. Nothing to do but wait for them to pass.
You can’t protect your children from pain—physical or otherwise. Obviously, that’s something you learn early on as a parent. But it’s always so hard to be reminded of it. And reminded of how little we can control in this old world. The world spins on and we stumble through it, mostly doing the best we can. So much hate out there, but so much love, too. So much cruelty, but so much kindness. So many people heedless of the harm they inflict on this lovely earth, but so many working to heal and save it. And dawn follows night and spring follows winter, and, always, mothers worry for their children.
But I wasn’t thinking of any of that as I dreamed yesterday in the golden sun. For once, I was not mired in the past or fretting about the future. I was thinking only of fragrant lilacs, cheery towhees, exuberant mockingbirds, velvet-soft petals, and the warm spring sun on my face and arms. And of weary old honeybees, dusted with gold, who find rest and peace at last in the shelter of a soft, spring flower.