{ Unveiling the Bees - a long night }

   It was past 10 p.m. by the time juwels and I finally packed the truck, including our three full and very active beehives. And I veered away from the efficient GPS directions and took a smaller freeway which bordered the Pima Indian Reservation, open desert, and cotton fields.

   Our bees were to be wild and free once they met our care, and there was no point in further upsetting them with the static energy of the city, bassy radios and exhaust vibration. Not to mention, our license plate display lights just quit working, and that was a great reason to get pulled over and hassled on the busier freeways.

   Somebody once told me that people who were born and raised up on Machu Picchu couldn't come down to the ground level ... something about their lungs filling with moisture. But regardless of the accuracy of that statement, something similar seemed to be happening to juwels from our time off the mountain. She was reporting a funny earache, sensitive and oceanic feelings in her head, and she said something else about sensitive hair follicles...

   I just had a headache, and was sneezing from the bright yellow explosions that were the flowering tops of the Palo Verde trees. Beautiful bombs of pollen.

   But as we climb elevation through a linear burn at about 75 miles an hour, our heads re-pressurized and expanded in that fine, high-mountain way.


   The clock was just hitting midnight as we slowed for the exit and pulled off into the small desert town, and juwels reminded me, in a kind of whisper, to take it easy on the bumpy dirt roads. The girls don't like wind or the vibration, and soon we'd be unscreening the three hive entrances in the dark.. with no smokers, veils or suits.

   Most European honey bees are very docile, and besides these ladies being a little out of sorts because of the travel, we wouldn't have thought twice about any of it. But these were feral bee colonies, and the swarm catcher we got them from originally told us that they were still pretty "hot" and that we should probably hold off on picking them up just yet, and let him keep an eye on them for another three weeks while the new Italian queen produced a more mellow population.

   But we were going to be down in the valley for Easter anyway, and the donations from our sweet friends and supporters were rolling in ... so we just couldn't wait !! But why didn't we have suits ??? Well ... juwels was still doing research and calling around to make sure we weren't getting anything from China (and with different regulations on labeling, this is harder to decipher when ordering online, but she's steadfast about supporting American Made/ fair trade and not the sweatshops, so..)  

    Plus, I guess we thought they'd all be inside, sleeping or something like that, since it was already past midnight and at a much cooler temperature than down south.

   But the entrance of the hottest hive was swarming with activity. Little bristly legs rubbing against one another made a sound like a healthy crackling fire. And when I got out of the truck for good, in the middle of nowhere and with the moon not yet up, the hives sounded like the humming fan in an overheating laptop computer.

  Holding my bare hand in front of the screened-off entrance, I could feel the heat that they were producing .. and the synchronized fanning of many wings. I shined the light on the dark screen and saw that some of the bees walking back and forth were still carrying white larva around ..

   Juwels had noticed this in the light of the streetlamps in front of my parent's house, and we worried that they were upset and making preparations to leave the hive.

   She called Scott, the swarm guy, and he said that they were "undertaker" bees ... and that some of the uncapped larva cells must have dropped their seeds in the moving of the hive, and those bees were just trying to get the compromised larva out.

   Bees are very particular about their systems, and something about having those undertakers pacing back and forth in the blocked entrance kind of made me uneasy ... knowing we were halting the natural ceremony of the dead, but what choice did we have ... 

   Before leaving the rent's curb, my dad splashed holy water on the three bee boxes, told the bees to take it easy, and we all hugged and said our goodbyes.

   Scott had said that even though it was going to be late by the time we found our spot, he thought we should let the hives sit still for a little while, at least a 1/2 an hour, before opening them up.

   But they wanted out. Not because it was natural to be out of the hive at night, but because they needed to find out just what was happening.. and who was making it happen.

   "Oh .... Hiiiii Bees : )" juwels said, "Now I know you're all scared and confused, but we're you're new parents, and we ... " 

    I stepped in. "No, no ... we're not your parents. You don't belong to us. Your life contract is with a much higher power. We're just watching over you. We're you're two-legged spirit animals."

    Juwels stopped me from going on .. and on and on .. as I have a habit of doing, and gave me a look like, 'you're going to spook them' ... ha ha ha .. I have a tendency of projecting my voice for no good reason, and she wanted to keep everything as zen as possible.


   We were on the back edge of our friend's very large property which borders hundreds of acres of state land. And I climbed into the back of the truck and heaved down a small white wooden pallet for juwels and another one for me, and we walked off into the desert in search of the perfect spot for the hives. We spotlit the western landscape and pounded our feet extra hard on the ground to ward off rattle snakes, and after investigating a few clearings in the bush, we picked one with a few beautiful clusters of wild white daisies on its edge.

   We dropped the pallets, which the hives would soon rest on, and juwels walked over and sat next to the biggest bouquet of flowers and said, "Hello little ladies : ) We're about to introduce you to some new friends .. you're all really going to like each other."

    I plopped down beside her, and lied completely flat on the cool soil of the desert. I had done all the driving, and it was already 2 hours past my bedtime, but I found that I wasn't quite tired, but instead, dreamy with an odd mix of subdued excitement peppered with uncertainty.

    One thing to mention, the screen over the hive entrances weren't setup to be quickly pulled off. Most people would have bee suits, and could take their time. There was duct tape streaming in different directions, and once you got one untaped, those bees would be out, and it would be a few minutes of fiddling with the next, bees to the second power .. and then on to the next, so if the bees decided that we were bothering their night, well ... we'd be sitting ducks with all the tape to go through.

   I told juwels we should just Swiss-army-knife the screens, pull them like zippers and play with the tape when we come back with suits, but no, no .. she wouldn't have it. "They'll get all sticky in the sun," she said, "I'll deal with it all on my own, you can just hang back at the truck. Besides, I want to make sure that they have a proper entrance, not just a hack job."

    Juwels fancies herself part bee and part humming bird, and it's true that her vibration is much higher than this old grizzly bear's, but I still had my doubts, and although tempting, I didn't think I was just going to go hang back at the truck like she'd suggested.

    When we'd first left the freeway about an hour earlier, juwels had remembered that it was earth day, literally the first moments of earth day as the clock struck midnight, and as we lied there on our backs with the white sun-burst of flowers smiling between us, we saw 4 or 5 shooting stars in the course of maybe 5 minutes, and juwels remembered her moon calendar, and said, "You know ... I think there's a meteor shower tonight."

   It was all too perfect, and I felt like the back of my skull was growing roots into the earth, heavy and connected. And then I remembered, "Hey, we should really get the hives in their final places, and then we can start the clock for their wind-down period."

   The boxes were heavy, and for some reason we insisted on carrying our own rather than going half's, and this made using the lights near impossible. Also, stamping our feet would just upset the bees, so we whisked along through the thorny weeds and chaparral bush, trying not to think about snakes, and we found the spot just as my arms were going numb.


   Once everything was setup, we lied there on our backs between the hives - me between the first and second, and juwels between the second and third, and we just listened to them buzzing around in there. The hive to the left of juwels was the most mellow, then the one between us was a bit louder, and the one on my right was the loudest.

   I talked to them a little bit ... tried to explain that even though they could probably feel the predator in me, that I was at their service, and that the fire they felt in me was an asset to them. And I'm not sure if that was something they could understand so soon, but it was really the best that I could offer at the moment ... The goats seemed to value this as I'm chasing dogs away and leading the heard, but maybe the bees preferred I'd meditate first, and I did that too. How could I not in this setting of shooting stars, love and buzzing bees? Juwels was in heaven, honey heaven. 

   We must have stayed there between the hives for another hour. Juwels talked to the Queens, and decided that we'd name them all Maria. We were in awe that there were three queens in our presence, "There's Queens in there!!" .... "Shhhhh ... you'll scare them.." I pressed an ear to the box, and a bee just on the other side made such a buzzing that I pulled away and swatted at my neck and ear. I had to run my hand across the box in the darkness to make sure there wasn't an opening there before I'd bring my ear close again. I just sat there with my eyes closed and listened to these fascinating little creatures who I'd have to wait till another sunny day to meet face to face.         


   After lying a long while, careful not to let my dreads become roots again, planting me in that spot for all of eternity, I got up, marked our territory beside a grateful purple cactus, and noticed the moon was finally rising above the mountain range.

   Juwels was over my shoulder in an instant. "Wow, look at the mountains .. they are glowing! I can't believe we are going to witness the Moon rise !!"

   It was just a pin prick of light at first, and then it started coming up in a very strange way.

   "Hey .. it looks like it's pointed," juwels said.

   "It is pointed ..." 

    We both watched it, waiting for the optical illusion to reveal itself, but the moon was not round .. it was coming up in a giant white-yellow pyramid.

   I'll admit that this freaked me out a little, like finding the sun in the sky as a square. I blinked my eyes, hard, and even looked away and then back at it to reset whatever glitch this was due to ... but then we finally saw what was happening. It was a half moon, and it was coming up at an angle behind the ridge, so the cut straight side on the left looked like the slope of a triangle, and the top of the curved right side mirrored it on the other.

    After talking to herself for a quick second, and then agreeing, yes, the "big" camera could be fun, juwels went running off to the truck for her camera and tripod, so she could shoot the moon.

   Standing there, alone now, with the moon finally making sense, I saw a flicker of light on a thin grey cloud ... moon lightning ?? Is there such a thing ? What things do exist that I'm just not tapped into? Had the bees and the fear and the lack of sleep removed a filter from my vision? I'm not ready, I thought. Left brain ... stay with me. I still have high-speed driving to do before sunrise. 

   I thought of juwels running back through the desert to this spot, and I loved our lives together, and wondered what I might be doing at that very moment if I'd never met juwels. She saved me - that's for sure.       

   After admiring and shooting the moon for a while, juwels said she thought it might be time to free the bees. I told her that I might hide out in the bushes on the sidelines and watch her do her dance, but that I might also just lie in the back of the truck on a bed roll and get some rest for the final drive up the mountain. It was about 2am, and we were only about 1/ 2 way to Flagstaff.

   Back at the truck, I fished out some goodies we'd picked up at the Asian super store, and climbed up onto the roof of the truck and tore open a mesh bag chewy longans. A dog barked in the distance, and a porch light went on down in the valley. Half the tropical fruit was sweet and delicious and the other half tasted like mold, and I quickly became antsy and walked back into the desert to watch the unveiling from afar.

   I screened my light as I approached, and turned it off completely when I saw juwels standing there bathed in the glow of her red headlamp. (the bees did Not like the white light but didn't seem to mind the red.)

   She didn't notice my appearance, and I lied down on my belly between two over arching bushes in the pebbly sand.

   I could hear, just barely because I knew the tune, that she was chanting.

   Now ... I can only tell you what this looked like from a distance. Lying on my belly like a 6-foot snake, anchoring my bare elbows into the sand and propping my chin up, A-frame style, on my cupped hands like a TV camera. And it was a fantastic sight to see ... her, delicately peeling back the tape like a nurse undressing a wound. Her hands moving in that red light. The chanting and occasional breaks she took to stand and face the moon and stretch in alternating crescent bends.

   And I worried for her at times .. said little beat poetry prayers and wondered what I could do if these black striped bugs came out wild and invisible in the night ..

   I pictured the scene where Forest Gump was running all those soldiers out of the jungle over his shoulder, and then I laughed at myself, and watched some more.

   At times, she'd wave her hand around in her face, shooing something away. And as an afterthought at one point, she stood up and wrapped her Cambodian krama tightly around her neck and head, and left only her eyes open through a ninja slit.

   She stood up at other times and turned her back on the hives, clicked her headlamp off, then to blue, red, white, and then back off again. I thought she was being swarmed with bees and trying to hide her face, and then she moved to the next hive. I could almost see the energy coming off of her, and at times I wanted to yell out, "leave the tape .. we'll come back later !!" but I didn't.  This went on and on and on ... and then, not knowing if I was there, but voicing it just in case, she said, "if you're out there ... get ready to run."

    Anyway, juwels was the one there with her hands on the hot hives and calming the bees with her song, so I'll let her finish this off in the first person.


Welcome juwels : )



oh. my. was that an ineffably amazing night!

when dreams come true .. you truly feel like you are dreaming ; )

   I was extremely giddy from the excitement of the night. We have bees! We finally have bees!
!! I could barely believe this was actually happening! And perfectly so .. in the wee hours of earth day, during an amazing meteor shower, and then witnessing the half-moon rise over the mountains. To say it was "incredible" would bee an understatement ; )

   Unlike peter's terrible plan of slicing the bee's screen door with a pocket knife, I was determined to scrupulously remove the duct tape and screen entirely from the bees entrances. And even though our buzzing bee girls had been grounded for over an hour .. they still seemed very rambunctious. 

   I've been around bees at their hive before and felt quite comfortable without suit or veil. But the energy of our hives, after the night's journey, was intimidating, and even though I immediately offered to be the one to execute the mission, I will admit, I was nervous. 

   I was trying not to imagine 90,000 winged bees carrying small venomous swords following me (& possibly peter) all the way to the truck, with the intent to attack. 


   Instead, I tried to calm my trepidation by chanting: om mani padme hum. 

   This, the chanting, wasn't something I'd envisioned in my earlier when I walked through the proper steps on my mind. But I somehow mellifluously transitioned from talking to the Maria's (three Queen bees), to chanting. 

   I was so nervous, that my voice was undulating like I was underwater and speaking mermish .. ha ha ha .. 

   Without words, I asked each Queen for respect, while chanting in my vibrational song.

    om mani padme hum .. om mani padme hum .. om mani padme hum ..

   Each hive had a completely different countenance. It was interesting to read their energy, ranging from mellow to heated. 

   My plan was to slowly and carefully roll back the tape from each hive's entrance, prepping them for the grand finale: tearing their screen doors off in ascending order from 'calm' to 'crazy'! 

   At the entrance of the first hive (the quiet one) there were only a few guards at the door. Maybe ten. The entrance of the middle hive had maybe twenty .. but the wild hive at the end had seriously like one hundred or more. All I could see were bees guarding the screen! And they did not seem too jolly. Hence, saving that one for last!!!

   The whole experience was so surreal that at one point I though for sure a bee buzzed right passed my face. I swatted the night air multiple times in the moonlight. The vibration from their wings was loud and audibly tangible. But there was either nothing there .. or my hallucinations were actually moths.

   Prepping the tape wasn't easy. The swarm guys did a good job of securing the screens. It was wrapped well around the corners and underneath the hive, and I continued to chant as I performed the task. 

   After a while I became more and more confident and my voice started projecting stronger .. less quivering .. and more connected. It was absolutely magical to witness their energy calm as my voice grew stronger ; ) Not only was I calming myself down .. but I was mollifying the bees as well!

   Never before have I chanted for sOo long! My throat was incredibly dry, but my voice was finally unwavering. 

Oh Maria! 

   I was enthralled at the thought of our three queen bees ; ) Without even realizing this subconscious shift .. I changed the chant .. in homage of Maria .. and I started chanting: "om mami padme hum. And I kept repeating mami .. until I seriously forgot how the verse actually went.

om mami padme hum .. om mami padme hum .. om mami padme hum ..

"Hello Queen! I love you Mami. And thank you bees, for everything that you do." I said without saying, my forehead pressed against one hive and then the next ..

   After surveying my escape route for impeding rocks and throwing the bigger ones aside .. I practiced flashing my headlamp from red to white. I didn't want to trip over anything and I definitely didn't want to run wildly through the desert guided only by a dim red light. 

   And for whatever reason, I usually always seemed to mess up the direction, so I kept practicing for the big show. I was laughing at myself, thinking of me running like crazy and accidentally flipping the light to blue, and then back to red, then to black, and finally white .. ha ha ha ..

   As I got each hive ready, I had multiple adrenaline over doses when I would accidentally pull too much on the tape, completely exposing the bees to the outside world. I recoiled so fast that they didn't have enough time to react. I obsessed over making sure that each hive was ready to go maybe three or more times.

Check one. Stretch. (My back wasn't too thrilled on the position I was squatting in for almost an hour.)

Check two. Crescent stretch (In salutation to the moon.)

Check three. (which I was most nervous about.)

Stretch. Repeat.

om mami padme hum ..  om mami padme hum .. om mami padme hum ..

   I was in such a zone that I had no idea if peter was watching me from the bushes or sleeping in the truck .. but I called out into the darkeness, breaking my flow for the first time since I started chanting,"Get ready to run!"

   I don't know how long it took me to build the courage to say to myself .. "Okay, I think they are officially ready, pull the tape and run!" But I was finally psyched to do it. I felt like I was on some adrenal junky reality TV show and that I had to execute this challenge flawlessly and in record time to win the prize! Don't mess up. Don't trip. And don't get stung!

Ready ..

Go! ..


Swipe! (ONE!)


(Jump right.)

Swipe! (TWO!)


(Jump right.)

Swipe! (DONE!) !!!


I flashed my headlight to white and bolted off in the direction of the truck. Peter was running right ahead of me with a flashlight in hand. We dodged bushes, jumped over rocks and hooted and giggled as we ran.


Ooh .. not bad. not bad.

One sting is not bad.  - I thought to myself.

We jumped into the truck, safe and sound ; ) There was a beautiful silence. And no buzzing!

"One sting is not bad! I proclaimed to peter as he started the engine.

The clock read: 3:17 am.

Perfect ; )

seven and then three are my favorite numbers.

Of course it was 3:17!

   Almost choking on the air from the buzz, I lifted up my pant leg to find the stinger, but instead found an inch-long, and uncomfortably thick, cactus needle embedded deep in my knee. My skin tugged with the tension as I slowly pulled it out, and it seemed to go forever. Peter and I laughed aloud and then drove home bleary eyed but safe and sound ; ) 


    Being almost daylight by the time we hit elevation, we let the goats follow us into the Hive and sleep under the table beside our bed by the fire. (they must have felt real special coming in in the dark and staying until morning .. something they haven't done since chia broke her leg and had to live inside for close to 2 months ..) 

   We slept until about noon, but let the goats out and sprung the chickens into the yard with feed about midway through our slumber. It was so nice to listen to bird song and continue the night's dreaming from the desert to the bed ; )

     Thank you so soOoOoo much to everyone who supported this new passion project of ours, I can't tell you how much more pure it feels to do something like this, and forget the stress of cost and numbers, and just know that the support has come in homeopathicly from all over the world : ) We can't wait to bottle some thank-you honey for all you loVely people !!

 More to come, loVe, lOve,

p&j .. & .. c&e .. and the honey bees !! 


1 comment:

  1. everyone deserves a nice comment, especially after such a long and beautiful post. a lot of effort went into that, and into the bees also. i never really loved bees that much, since i tend to associate them with wasps, who have stung me several times, leaving an indelible horrible impression. i know that bees are not wasps. and i am coming to love them through your journey. it's hard, because i'm more of an amphibian lover. give me a pond full of frogs and i'm set! thank you for being a caretaker for the bees, who give us so much. and i guess not everyone can be a full time bee lover. variety is the spice of life, and i'm here to love other things more fervently than bees, but i support you to the maximum limits of the stars. (i really love beeswax and your candles! even if the sight of that wax coming out of the bees body really freaks me out like seeing a giant cat with a monocle)