The incessant rain stopped late in the afternoon, and I stepped out of the house to watch the glowing red orb slowly disappear over the crest of the distant mountain.
Gazing at the western sky, I noticed that the setting sun had flirted with the clouds just long enough to make them blush red and orange.
’twas a beautiful sight. A dopamine rush! With everything that is going on with this world currently, such small moments of joy are probably what we all need to perk up our mood.
Disclaimer: Strictly speaking, an ode is a poem. This is not. So, if you are a purist and take offence very easily, then, you may want to exit the page, now!
The flight of the bumblebee
Returning from my vantage point, pondering about life’s imponderables and lost deep in my own thoughts, I was walking in the yard outside of our home. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed some movements on the ground. Looking closely, I realized that it was a bumblebee walking erratically on the ground. The insect seemed to be in some distress. Once in a while the bumblebee fluttered its wings and tried to take flight, but couldn’t generate enough lift to do so.
As an aside. I am a hobby farmer, and I have a small vegetable garden, so insects such as bees are a regular sight. However, they are mostly busy collecting honey and pollen from the flowers, and pollinating my crops. To see a bumblebee walking on the ground and struggling to take flight was a little strange and thus it piqued my attention.
I sat on my haunches to observe it closely. It seemed to notice my presence and based on pure instinct it wanted to just fly away. Unfortunately, for some reason, even though it was beating its wings vigorously—which normally happens to be around 200 times a second— it wasn’t able to launch itself in the air and buzz away.
A friend in a bumblebee
Digressing a bit here. There are two organisms that are a farmer’s, hobby or otherwise, best friend—earthworms and bees. Earthworms aerate and fertilize soil, and bees help to pollinate agricultural crops and flowering plants.
I love bees, especially bumblebees, they are nature’s beautiful creation. Bumblebees are gentle social creature and extremely intelligent. Buzzing between flowers in the garden, hovering majestically in the air, their body coated with pollen, they are a friend that every hobby farmer expects to see in their garden. And if they see hundreds of them in their garden, then, chances are that they are doing things right.
Therefore, when I noticed a bumblebee—a friend—in distress, I wanted to see if I could help it in any way. I know that a worker bumblebee’s lifespan is around 2-6 weeks, generally, unless they lose their life to predators/diseases/whims of Mother Nature/something else. Hence, in all probability, this particular bumblebee’s time had come. Although, I wanted to help the bumblebee, I, however, did not want to play God. Mother nature decides when it is time to live and when it is time to die.
As I sat on my haunches watching it closely, it paused walking for a few seconds to watch me with its compound eyes. It seemed it did not want my attention. I though of picking it up by its wings and then gently heaving it in the air to see if that could help her fly. But then if she couldn’t and she fell like a rock from some height it could injure and hurt her. So, I refrained from interfering in any way, but just kept on watching her.
I know some of you might say that the bee was probably tired and low on energy. Hence, I should have just made a sugar solution and placed it on a spoon for the bee to reach. I don’t think the bee was just tired, because I also noticed something very strange.
The bumblebee, it seemed, didn’t want any attention from me. It was trying to ‘hide’ from me and was, actually, walking away from me while I was following it. When I finally realised what it was trying to “tell” me, I stopped in my path and watched it walk away. It went to the edge of the concrete platform it was walking on, jumped into a raised bed where I plant vegetables and disappeared.
Anybody remember the 1994 movie ‘With Honors‘ with Joe Pesci, Brendan Fraser, Moira Kelly, et al.? In the movie, Joe Pesci’s character, Simon, tells Monty how dogs will go to a field alone to die by themselves. Simon, himself, tries to do that at the end of the movie but is brought back by Monty.
As I watched the bumblebee walk away and disappear, for some reason, I was reminded of that scene from the movie. So, I left the bumblebee to be by herself and returned to my room. But, I didn’t forget her.
The disappearing act
Around three quarters of an hour later, I stepped out of my room to look for the bumblebee, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Starting from the raised bed where it had disappeared from my view, I looked for it almost everywhere in the yard, in all the nooks and crannies, but the bumblebee was nowhere to be found. I looked for it the next morning, too, but no luck.
So, I told myself, ‘Heh, maybe it rested for a while, felt better, and flew back to its hive, which is a great thing, right?”
That, too, was a happy thought, a small dose of happiness in these difficult times. With that happy thought in my mind, I got back to my regular chores and forgot all about the bumblebee.
Around afternoon that same day, I was cleaning the outside veranda where I keep my shoes and various other garden accouterments. As I was about to pick up my jogging shoes to sweep away the dust, I noticed a bumblebee lying stationary next to the soles of my shoes…. dead. I paused and looked at it for a while, wondering whether it was the same bumblebee as the one that was in distress, yesterday.
The final journey
In my heart, I knew it was. I was stumped that the only place it could find to die was next to the soles of my shoes. I was also saddened that it wasn’t able to fly one last time. Maybe it did, I don’t know. Maybe its last flight brought it to where it was now.
I was happy, too, that it got a chance to live its life and dance among the flowers before going wherever it is that bumblebees go when they die.
Now, I know, many of you will say, ‘How do you know it was the same bumblebee from yesterday?‘ You are right, I don’t. But my heart says it is that same bumblebee. It walked away from me, as it didn’t want any attention. Later on, in its search for a place where it could hide from everybody before it leaves this world, it probably walked back to the veranda and found its final resting place next to the sole of my shoes.
Why it chose my shoes when there were so many other things it could have hid under, I don’t know and will probably never know? Unfortunately, we never find answers to those question, but discover or reach them in our hearts.
Anyway, I picked up the dead bumblebee and looked at the lifeless body closely and wondered:
- Did it have a good life?
- Will the queen bumblebee, it’s mother, miss her?
- Do bumblebees have a God of their own?
- Is there a bumblebee heaven or a bumblebee hell?
- Did it enjoy its love affairs with the flowers?
- Did it understand that I wanted to help her?
- During its last moments, how must it have felt to be alone, away from its brothers and sisters, and the comfort of its hive?
- And why did it walk back from the middle of the garden to die next to the soles of my sneakers?
There are no answers to any of those questions. They are the life’s imponderables.
The life of a bumblebee
As I had mentioned earlier, a bumblebee lives for around 2 to 6 weeks. Think about it for a moment, at the upper end of the spectrum, it lives for just a month and a half. During it’s lifespan, the sole purpose of this beautiful insect is to fly from flower to flower, plants to plant, to collect honey and pollen for itself and it’s hive members. That’s all it is ‘programmed’ to do. And it does so magnificently and selflessly. It lives for others and in the process lives for itself.
Because it chose me in a way, by finding its final resting place next to my running shoes, I buried that bumblebee in my garden, next to a flower plant, which it probably pollinated when it was alive. While living, it enabled life through pollination. In death, too, it will enable life by decomposing and sustaining microbes and other organism in the soil. What a beautiful way to live and die—enabling and sustaining life—both in life and death.
Living like a bumblebee…
A bumblebee creates more than it destroys, it gives more than it takes, without expecting anything in return. They support our food chain by pollinating our crops, they go on with their life without troubling anyone. They are gentle, beautiful, and intelligent, and unless provoked or unless they are trying to protect themselves they will not attack anyone. Most importantly, they don’t discriminate between the flowers and plants they pollinate.
A bumblebee doesn’t choose one garden or one field over the other. In their world, all flowers and plants and gardens are equal. They don’t take more than what they need—just enough to feed themselves and a little more for their community.
A bumblebee does not worry about tomorrow, but lives for the moment. They make the most of what their short life has to offer. They are happy creatures that spread happiness around. You will not find a grumpy or a sad bumblebee. Only ones that are dancing around and with the flowers.
We have so much to learn from such a beautiful creature. How different would the world be if we humans were to emulate a bumblebee? No, I am not saying emulate everything about a bumblebee, just some of its behavioral traits. After all we, too, are like the bumblebees—here for a short time visiting this garden of life.
So, why the rush, the worries, the keeping up with the joneses, the wars, the conflicts, the violence, and the hate, I wonder?
Can we all not live and let live?
Just like the bumblebees.