Tag Archives: women

Beekeeping in Skirts

@beekeepinginskirts is one of my favorite instagram feeds. And these two posts made me think and seem closely connected, so here you are. Many thanks, Ariella.

by Ariella Daly

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photo: Ariella Daly
  1. LISTENING TO THE BEES

Sometimes, before I enter a hive, I listen to the hum. I press my ear again the wood, warm with the radiant heat of so many bodies, and listen. There is a rain storm of tiny feet, a low buzz, a scent. I hum back to them, in my clumsy, human attempt at grace. I still my heart.

Sometimes it is enough to be near. To fold yourself against the mystery. Sometimes I come to the hive simply to tell them about my heart: to share the story of my human experience, as they swirl around me, pollen-laden.

We creatures of story and long memory, we beg for audience. We long to hear what stirs beneath our chatter. We are looking for a way in. Perhaps that’s why the fascination with the inner cathedral of the hive. With beekeeping. With all these inspection standards and how to books and handy tools for the creatures with opposable thumbs. Perhaps all we want is a transfixed moment of gazing upon the utterly mysterious unknown. To be let in. To be filled with a brief sense of being fully undone by the fragile, fierce totality of a life made with honey and sting.

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photo: Ariella Daly

2. BECOMING THE NEKTARY

California is burning. Greece is burning. Norway is burning. England is burning. The land is hot, cracked, brittle. The veins feel feeble, dry. As a child of California, I know fire season, but not like this.

If the bees teach us of community and service, they also teach us this: we much become the nectary. We must restore the flow of nectar to the land. We must do this within our own bodies and for the Mistress of Nektars herself: the Earth. We must become the flow-er. We must re-learn how to allow ourselves full access to our senses and our expression. When we do not dam, stifle, re-route our holy flows, we transform into healing vessels of milk and honey.

We are witnessing a earth hungry for nectar. We are witnessing our society, our nations, our animals, our peoples bleed out from fresh and old wounds. But that kind of flow does not feed the land; it cracks the earth.

I constantly ask myself how to be an agent of positive change in this 11th hour? There are many answers. Some are daunting. Some are humbling. Some are downright uncomfortable and gritty. But some answers are borne of water. Some are about the nature of becoming. So today, while I do not turn my eyes away from social activism, I keep an inward gaze on what it means to become the nektary. What it means to give ourselves this gift of total self-love. To let our nektars fall like rivers down our cheeks and heal with our tears. To let the moon guide our red waters. To let cleansing sweat rise from our skin and bathe us in catharsis, dance, reclaiming, embodiment. To dare to feel our own ecstasy. To let the full expression of what we are and what we feel move FREE within us. Drip from us. Circulate.

Nek-tar. Greek in origin. “Nek” meaning “death” and “tar” meaning to “overcome, cross over”. The liquid ambrosia that overcomes death. The drink of the gods. Liqueur vitae. Fluid, flowing life.

There are many roads to healing the burning earth, and none of them can be taken if we do not free our own fluidity from the shackles of a suppressed feminine flow. Men, I mean that sacred flow inside you too. Become the rivers, my loves.

A Woman Beekeeper From the 1930s

Wild swarm in New Zealand photo: Te Ara
Wild swarm in New Zealand tree (photo: Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand)

It’s cold. It’s wet. So I’m reading instead of gardening. At the moment, the complete works of Robin Hyde (1906-1939), an extraordinary and prolific New Zealand writer. Her work enchants me, all of it.

In Journalese (1934), a light-hearted survey of her experiences as a journalist – I think she’d have delighted in social media – she documents a bee experience that wouldn’t happen now. Couldn’t. The ancient Ford? Maybe. But Italian Blacks? German Browns? Wild bees? I don’t think so.

It was in Christchurch, and by accident, that I found out I was bee-immune (i.e., proof against all stings.) The path of duty led to a woman bee farmer, her abode at Rangiora. Would she give me a story about the beauty of bee-farming? She would do more: she whisked me into an ancient Ford, and drove at an astonishing speed in the direction of the farm itself. It was in a haunted orchard. Under the desolate old trees which dropped their blossom unheeded on the grass, Italian Blacks and German Browns, an ever-dancing, ever-moving Gulf Stream of bees, guarded the hive more efficiently than any ghost could do.

Afraid of bees? She treated them with a motherly mixture of severity and contempt. And to my own amazement, I found myself draped in an inadequate sort of bee-veil, but with no gloves or other weapons of defence, brushing bees from great golden combs with a macrocarpa bough. The bees took no notice. Then, unsealing the combs, straining the honey, seeing it come up clear and dark gold….it was all rather delightful, and I still think that to retire and become a bee farmer is a quite dignified outlet for any woman’s energies. I carried home a vasty golden comb. This was awkward. It occupied practically all the shelf space in my tiny flat, and eat as I would, bestow it on my neighbours as I might, I couldn’t keep up with its melting moments. Finally the horrid remains, done up with as much care as an inconvenient corpse, found their way into the dustman’s tender care.

Manuka honey…dark, sweet, gathered by the droning wild bees whose nests are high up in rimu or manuka…is the best of all. You can smell Australia in scented boronia, the little brown-cupped sort that grows wild. You can taste the New Zealand bush in manuka honey. They collect it and use it at Chateau Tongariro, which is an unusually discerning sort of thing for any Government enterprise (pp109-110).

I’m looking out for more on the history of women beekeepers in New Zealand.

Robin Hyde
Robin Hyde