How nice to learn new things. How silly to have believed something so wrong for so many years.
Let me begin at the beginning. My wildly spinning world has been spinning even more wildly of late. Travel, writing, house clearing,book tour, a new shop, losing 20 pounds. Moremoremore.
I had set aside some time this morning to be in my garden. Not a huge agenda—clearing the hops back off the gate, picking beans and cucumbers. Nothing more ambitious than that—and spending time in the green and damp.
I brought light cloth gloves, mostly to keep the hops from leaving their customary welts on my hands. The secateurs, I noted, were a little dull. I wished I had doused myself in bug spray. I heard the gentle chirrup that meant Puka had caught something. A wee bird. I fussed at him and told him he should eat the damned jays that were destroying the fall Cortland apple crop.
I gathered a big bale of hops and turned to walk them over to the edge of the bank. I backed into the wet and drooping rose of Sharon hedge and suddenly felt a sharp pain on the back of my gloved right hand. I looked down, thinking I’d caught a raspberry cane.
A big glorious bumblebee was stinging the Hel out of me.
I literally said “What…” out loud and flicked her off my hand. She lay in the damp grass a moment and then returned to her work in the rose of Sharon blossoms.
I dumped the hop clippings down the bank and wondered at the sharp throbbing pain continuing to worsen on my hand.
In shock? Maybe. Because my whole life long I have believed—quite wrongly—that bumblebees couldn’t sting, didn’t have stingers. I have shown countless people how to pet a working bumble with a gentle downward stroke on their soft bodies. Don’t worry, quoth I. They don’t have stings.
What else don’t I know I don’t know, I wonder? I have no idea who told me that and showed me how to pet a bumble. Might have been one of the old folks in the cove or some gardening relative. It’s been so long ago I can’t remember.
It’s stopped hurting now—though my fingers feel stiff when I ball up my fist. And the sting site is a little itchy. I’m going to put some witch hazel on it in a minute and see if that helps with the itch.
My friend MariJo Moore is my go-to person for asking what things like this mean. I don’t have a cultural history of animal medicine like this so I sent her an email—in between my internet search for info on stinging bumblebees. She told me what Gabe Horn had to say about medicine like this coming when you need it. And then she told me that bumblebee medicine is about seeing that life is good and sweet and filled with brightness and color and the bee is the ancient symbol of good fortune, joy and harmony.
That feels very right.
And here’s another interesting piece of this bee biz. We had the first meeting of our fiscal year at Mother Grove on Sunday. In an effort to inspire the circle of council in this new time, I reminded them that bumblebees don’t look as though they are capable of flight and yet, they do. And building a Goddess Temple on the buckle of the Bible Belt may not seem possible, but it is.
And two days later I get stung by a critter I firmly believed didn’t have a stinger.
Yeah, that’s how it happened. Isn’t that the way of the Divines? We speak our fates into being sometimes and They laugh at our surprise.