Beauty is in the Eye of the Bee Holder

Over the years, I have become the tender banisher of softly buzzing insects from the indoors, the valiant knight who stops to aid bumbling bees in their arduous quest to cross the sidewalk. I wore a black and yellow striped onesie to late nights for my school’s newspaper and integrated bee puns into my everyday diction. As my reputation evolved, I took up the mantle of “token bee-loving friend,” a title I bore with great pride.

I usually spend a couple weeks of my summer as an assistant camp counselor at Friends of Zenger Farm, an urban farm that works to build community and help people connect with nature. During one of these sessions, the group of campers I was working with was spending time in the wetlands, exploring the tall grass and critters skirting around the pond. It was there that Watson, one of the campers, happened upon a bee in the water and managed to catch it with his net, saving it from drowning. The bee’s relief, however, was short lived. Upon realizing what he had rescued, Watson frantically shook it from his net and used his turkey baster to push the bee away. I watched in horror as its fragile body skipped and scraped across the bark-chip path where another camper could easily step on it.

“Hey, Watson,” I said, masking my panic behind my camp-counselor voice. “Could you please leave the bee alone?”

I swooped between the two of them and let the bee crawl onto my hand where no one would step on it; I didn’t know if I could help, but at least I was protecting it from further trauma. Watson’s attention returned to his tadpoles, and I directed my focus towards the bee.

I couldn’t spot an obvious injury, but the bee was soaked and clumps of soil clung to its petite body. I let it adjust, its tiny legs gently tickling me as it inched itself across my arm, stopping intermittently to shake some of the dirt loose.

After a couple minutes of sitting together, Willow, another one of the kids, realized what was going on. “Be careful,” she urged, racing up to me. “It could sting you.” She spoke with concern, with genuine panic, a juxtaposition to my natural comfort around bees.

“It’s okay,” I reassured her. “It won’t sting me if I stay calm—look.”

Willow perched beside me, observing the bee as it crawled around my arm. As time passed, she grew more comfortable, settling down beside me and watching the bee curiously. At one point she called the other counselor over to show him what I was doing. Her voice was brimming with more excitement than anxiety, and she commented later that the bee was actually pretty cute.

When it was fully dry, the bee took flight, and it was our time to leave too. As we meandered back up to the farmhouse, Willow told me that she missed the bee, and she was going to paint it when we did art later in the day. I felt like I had accomplished something; she had seen the same beauty I find in bees, the delicacy that is synonymous with warmth and gentle strength. I’m fascinated by individual insects seamlessly functioning as a part of a community, as if they collectively make up a larger organism—breathing, living, “beeing” as one. They instill a sense of harmony, of cooperation and wonder and peace, reminding me what it feels like to find beauty in the world; they remind me to take a step back, to be grounded and confident and free. And there is nothing better than sharing that with someone.

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