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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

bees, and the persistence of hope

the author's

the author’s

The bee house is up! As a beekeep wannabe from waaaay back (decades — really), I can’t begin to say how happy I am.

My beloved bought me a native bee house (not honey bees, more on this later) for the holidays. Health woes kept us from finishing it the way I wanted (he did, too), so it’s only now that it’s done. But boy, is it GREAT.

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He bought the wooden bee ‘chalet’ from a wonderful source for native bees, Crown Bees, out of Washington state. Washington is a state that knows its bees, both native & honey. With a huge percentage of the nation’s apples & berries, pollination is a major concern. And of course, the Pacific Northwest is also home to a lot of fellow tree-huggers. :)

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As any who know me will tell you, I’m crazy about bees. My first name means ‘bee’ in Hebrew, which has always meant something to me. I remember as a child reading Jean-Henri Fabre on bees, and being smitten. I would follow bees around the garden, a continuity that was rare in my pursuits, given how we moved. Bees, however, are everywhere. Well, except for Antarctica, and we weren’t ever stationeed there…;)

via wikimedia

via wikipedia

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My uncle Russell kept bees, too. A quiet man, he would disappear into the garden and mess w/ his several hives. And sometimes there would be honey. It seemed the most wonderfully mysterious of natural miracles.

So at Christmas bee cocooons came — the way that native bees (this first set is mason bees, small jeweled powerhouses of energy: green & blue & black) make it over the winter. And a bee ‘chalet,’ and a lot of literature as well as a couple of pieces of help. We spent the early winter months talking about where ‘our bees’ would go. All too soon, it was spring. And time to put out bees.

Which meant a post to hold the bee house, and three (yep, THREE) different shipments of copper to find the right gauge for the roof. And a copper finial for the post, and then braces to set the now-heavy bee house on. And voilà! A gorgeous addition to environmentalism, on the local scale.

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passion vs anger, and poetry to bank the wrong fires

via google

via google

While I’m passionate about many things (politics, tea, food, books, poetry…), I usually only get really angry about a few things. The main one is mean people.

I know: ‘mean girls.’ But seriously? If you’re mean to my friends or family, or even really mean to someone in my presence, I will NOT be a happy camper. And I will almost certainly let you know about it. Since I consider the family of my friends & family (& dear colleagues) my friends, I get angry at more people than I might otherwise.

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You can be mean to me — I’ll manage. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. But if you’re mean to my people, I’ll be furious.

Right now, I’m beyond furious. I’m enraged, and heart-broken, to boot. I can’t STAND mean people!! You don’t get to make snarky comments to people who are much nicer than you are, more generous than you are, and probably smarter you are, and then pretend you didn’t. This is not nice, and I won’t be okay with it.

Unfortunately, I don’t always have the luxury of telling people what I think of them. Well, it’s unfortunate for me only, probably. My nephew once told my son he’d rather be beaten by the principal than lectured by me, his aunt. (To be honest? I thought that was a high compliment!) In other words, I wield a mean tongue when riled.

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via google

via google

This isn’t good beginner’s heart, I realise. I should be more compassionate to people who are such miserable sots that they take it out on others. But I’m not that kind of compassionate — I’m more a warrior than a nurturer, I’m afraid. Hence the whole engaged Buddhism thing. If you’re afraid of people who look different from you, and you want to legislate your own fears? Tough luck. Grow up. Push your boundaries. Learn something about cultural differences.

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But don’t beat up on unarmed men. Don’t kill unarmed men. Don’t be mean to people I love. Take a deep breath, and remember that every wisdom tradition teaches love. NOT ONE teaches hate. There’s a reason for that: love heals. Hate? It kills. Sometimes w/ a bullet. Sometimes w/ a broken spine. Sometimes w/ the slow poison of spite and malice. It’s all the same once you’re dead…

So as we enter the last days of National Poetry Month, here’s a poem on anger. It seems appropriate as I grieve for Baltimore, and its beleaguered peoples.

Talk

~ by Kwame Dawes

            For August Wilson

No one quarrels here, no one has learned
the yell of discontent—instead, here in Sumter
we learn to grow silent, build a stone
of resolve, learn to nod, learn to close
in the flame of shame and anger
in our hearts, learn to petrify it so,
and the more we quiet our ire,
the heavier the stone; this alchemy
of concrete in the vein, the sludge
of affront, until even that will calcify
and the heart, at last, will stop,
unassailable, unmovable, adamant.

Find me a man who will stand
on a blasted hill and shout,
find me a woman who will break   
into shouts, who will let loose
a river of lament, find the howl
of the spirit, teach us the tongues
of the angry so that our blood,
my pulse—our hearts flow
with the warm healing of anger.

You, August, have carried in your belly
every song of affront your characters
have spoken, and maybe you waited
too long to howl against the night,
but each evening on some wooden
stage, these men and women,
learn to sing songs lost for centuries,
learn the healing of talk, the calming
of quarrel, the music of contention,
and in this cacophonic chorus,
we find the ritual of living

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the dark threads, reprised

via wikipedia

via wikipedia

I have a copy of this tapestry, one of my favourites. The idea that women made this — centuries ago — that they sat together for probably a decade (1495-1505), creating this thing of such intricate loveliness, among them? I’m awed.

I’m also awed at how little light there is in the tapestry: the unicorn, the meadow  flowers, a lighter shade for the woods of the fence & tree trunk. Mostly? Dark threads.

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When I bought my copy, I was very young — mid-20s. I had to pay it for a year. And what I loved about it, of course, was the magical unicorn — glowing almost as if lit. Now, knowing far more about life and its dark places, I value how the dark threads allow the bright ones to gleam, to reach out to us.

Of course it’s a metaphor. Christians & pagans both claim the unicorn, but I claim the balance between dark & light threads. What Eastern thinkers term the balance between light & darkness. Note that there are far more dark threads in my tapestry than there are bright ones; life’s often like that, isn’t it? But what we focus on — humans that we are — is the light.

That’s as it should be, ever optimistic be. :) But it does help, when things are their normal imperfect selves, to remember the ratio. And that w/out the dark framework and background, the unicorn would disappear…

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It’s still National Poetry Month. Here’s one of my very favourite poets, W.H. Auden, on the unicorn:

New Year Letter

~ W. H. Auden

O unicorn among the cedars
To whom no magic charm can lead us,
White childhood moving like a sigh
Through the green woods unharmed in thy
Sophisticated innocence
To call thy true love to the dance…

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hope’s feathers

Via wikipedia

Via wikipedia

Just a poem today, as I wrestle with a body intent on discomfort. Which leads to thoughts of mortality, of course. And the grateful realisation that I’m basically pretty healthy.

Not so my aging mother-in-law, who drifts through twilight days unmoored, like feathers in the air.

Here’s a poem that captures far better than I can how Hope, that thing with feathers, isn’t always pretty:

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Hospital Writing Workshop
Rafael Campo, 1964

Arriving late, my clinic having run
past 6 again, I realize I don’t
have cancer, don’t have HIV, like them,
these students who are patients, who I lead
in writing exercises, reading poems.
For them, this isn’t academic, it’s
reality: I ask that they describe
an object right in front of them, to make
it come alive, and one writes about death,
her death, as if by just imagining
the softness of its skin, its panting rush
into her lap, that she might tame it; one
observes instead the love he lost, he’s there,
beside him in his gown and wheelchair,
together finally again. I take
a good, long breath; we’re quiet as newborns.
The little conference room grows warm, and right
before my eyes, I see that what I thought
unspeakable was more than this, was hope.

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