Final Flight of the Honeybee
I am sitting here at Starbucks listening to people and watching them be so serious and jovial and self-important. I set my rock on the table and opened my laptop. I am settling in for my third and final observation of the rock. I am upset because some asshole parked in the handicap spot (he was clearly not handicapped). Who more self-important or self-righteous than I?
I am here doing my final rock observation. It is an observation assignment I am doing to improve my teaching. So much of teaching is actively observing and listening to gain a better understanding of my students. I like it. Pay attention. Be aware. Be mindful. Be reflective.
At any rate, I glance over at my rock with my Word document open and instead I see on the ground, in the same line of sight, a honeybee in its death throes. A few short feet away from me. Thrashing and flipping over and doing things with his thorax that I have not been able to do since I was 12. He must be in agony. Do bees experience pain? He is a similar color as my rock, which may not be true; my eyes do not see as well as once they did. People are upset and honking at one another at the nearby intersection, meanwhile this little guy is breathing his last breaths. Do bees breathe? Like with lungs? There's so much I don't know. I feel like re-reading Virginia Woolf’s “Death of The Moth.”
During one miraculous moment of will and strength our little hero rights himself; he is momentarily not upside down. My life is just like that: sometimes it's just nose above the water, sometimes I am submerged, sometimes I right myself and it's one foot in front of the other. Sometimes. On the other hand, I feel like the honeybee in front of me, beset on all sides by forces beyond my control: CSUN, Reseda, Thalia, some significant kooks, the songs itching to get out of me, whether or not my humanity can be saved while living in this godforsaken town, the rampant incivility everywhere. My constant companion, anxiety over the things I cannot control. But then sometimes I have peace because I accept the things I can't control. Miraculously, however, is the strength and courage to change the things I can (I hate confrontation). Some days I even have the wisdom to know the difference. Some days are simply better than others.
He’s down to only leg movements now. His life is nearing its end. He clings so stubbornly to his losing cause. Don’t we all? Cling to losing causes. Maybe that is the point, not whether or not we win or lose, but that we play the game. To strive, to seek, and not to yield. He twitches now. This is it. This is the great moment. A perfectly coiffed 20-something man just walked past. Jeans rolled synchronously. Socks starch white. A man bun. Ugh. He is oblivious to the wonder and miracle of life and death playing out right under his feet. None of it MEANS anything; I am just observing, but my observations are laced with attachment. The kind of attachment that DOES mean something, the kind that makes a long life of pain and strife and anguish and disappointment worth clinging to. And I cling like this honeybee clings. Because sometimes we do connect. Sometimes we right ourselves and land on our feet. Sometimes the sun shines on us. Sometimes is enough.
As I bear witness to the death of this honeybee I wonder what my responsibility to it is now. Now that it is dead. Should I help him into the tiny patch of soil bearing a bamboo fence? Should I leave him where he is, so his carcass can suffer the additional indignity of some unconscious passerby smooshing him under foot? A stain on the concrete? Soon enough we will all be stains on the concrete. Makes me think of the history of each and every stain on a long life. Can we really ever know, you know, anything? We all have stains. The bee whispers his lesson: be decent to each other because everyone carries scars of pleasure and pain and their stains may not be visible, but they are nonetheless significant.
Whatever that bee was is gone now. Food for ants I suppose. Ironically, sadly, (proudly?) he faced death on his feet. One last push righted him into a sort of pitiful fetal position with his feet on the ground.
I hope I die on my feet.