On Bees

Caring for the bees is the only thing I do where I don’t notice the passage of time. Even other activities that I enjoy, that bring me great satisfaction, I am at least aware of time — its passage and how much is left before the next activity.

I tend to do things quickly. Think quickly, decide quickly, talk quickly. I’m working on this. There are times when it serves me of course, but usually slowing down a bit would be better for everyone. Take a breath, leave space, consider twice.

There is so much to see when inspecting a hive of bees. Are there new eggs? Are there cells with multiple eggs (a sign of a laying worker)? Can you spot the queen? Are there new queen cells? Are they running out of space? We must move slowly. Or, I like to move slowly, at least (we don’t keep bees commercially, we have time and not so many hives). To not pinch a bee with my finger, or squash one when replacing the frames. To not, heaven forbid, drop a frame. Communicate with my partner as we move through the inspection about what we see, what’s next, what the driver needs help with. (This is much like pairing in software — there is a driver who is interacting with the hives, and a navigator who watches, points out things the driver might have missed, assists physically too, but only when the driver indicates they need or want it. We take turns in these roles).

PXL_20210425_220739199.PORTRAIT.jpg In this, against my nature that presents itself in the other things I do, I am meticulous, methodical, plodding even. Even in moments where my motions are quick, because the hive is agitated and we need to move the inspection along, I am meticulous.

Any meditation teacher will tell you that the practice itself is not really the point. It is just that — practice for the more everyday moments of life. The point is to be able to bring the mindset, the awareness and learnings from the meditation practice, into everyday moments. Beekeeping is not meditation, exactly (or perhaps it is, who am I to say), but the concept applies. The goal has become to bring that frame of mind into the everyday moments. To be more meticulous and methodical, which need not always mean slow.

How would the software that I write change? How would my relationships change, personal and professional? How would the way I feel in everyday moments change?

The irony here, of course, is that bees literally work themselves to death. Foragers take dozens of trips a day, bringing nectar or pollen back to the hive to help the colony survive a winter most of them won’t live to see, their lifespans being only a handful of weeks. They can visit up to forty flowers in a minute. I don’t know if they’re meticulous as they do this, though I suppose they are methodical, visiting only one type of flower on each trip out of the hive.

Regardless, the point remains. Whether or not they know these things themselves, they are teaching me.