Honeybee 'Apis mellifera' on annual rudbeckia
Years ago, my daughter and I were driving out to Benzonia to the Gwen Frostic studio early one spring. We were almost there, when I saw a sign hanging from a post that said “Beedazzled”.
“Ooooh, Beedazzled, I love that. We’re stopping there on our way back.” I told my daughter. And we did.
Honeybees on flowering thyme
As we walked through the garden to the rustic, two story wood sided building, my daughter said “this reminds me of your garden mom.” She was referring to the garden at the farm I had to sell a few years back. The garden beds were filled with herbs and flowers, some just emerging, some at their highlight. Small leaves, large leaves, shiny leaves, and fuzzy leaves. Mounding and creeping plants were planted in garden beds with wooden borders. So many shades of greens and grays. We stood for a few minutes admiring its beauty. I opened the front door to the store and just as I stepped inside, my body froze. I just stood there, grounded. A warm glow filled the room along with aromas of honey and vanilla. To the left, a wall was filled with hand crafted soaps. Beeswax candles and honey lined the shelves closest in front of me.
A woman greeted me with a smile. She was about my age, long brown/gray hair, bright blue eyes. During our conversation she brought up that she was going to be offering a beekeeping apprenticeship for women. I don’t recall the details of the conversation, but I do remember she kept repeating that this wasn’t like a traditional bee keeping class. It was the Mellisae Sacred Art of beekeeping for women only. I felt that at that moment I wanted to be here, at this place. I wanted to learn with other women. I didn’t realize how much that summer would impact my life. At the time, I didn’t live on the property I currently farm at. We were in the process of starting to build our house. I lived a couple hours away, but that didn’t matter. I camped on my property every other Sunday night and would attend the Beekeepress Apprenticeship on Monday from May to October that year.
Her name is Sharon, and she is the Bee Priestess. There were several women in the group, one woman served as an assistant to Sharon. When you learn more about the role of the bees in the hive, Sharon is the queen, she had an attendant, and the rest of us were worker bees, or as we called each other, bee sisters. If we had a male partner in our lives, they were called drones. I was given a drum on the first class. The drum later served as the sound and songs of bees.
Highlights of that summer
Stepping out of my comfort zone. I haven’t done this for quite a few years, and it was time for a little me time.
Camping alone in the woods the Sunday before classes in a little rustic 10 x 14 cabin by myself. The peace that came with the forest and clear, dark, star filled sky. I would wake up in the morning and attempt to heat up some water to make some coffee to drink on my 40 minute morning drive to Sharon’s. Not being much of a morning person, and not able to wake up by taking a shower, I always showed up in somewhat of a weird, sleepless, disoriented way.
Learning all about the bees and their magic during the morning class sessions while the sun beamed through the windows into the room where we all sat on the floor with our lessons spread out in front of us.
Walking from the house to the bee yard through the woods. The path was lightly worn and bordered by moss, until we came to a wooden fence, then we would crouch below a wire of an electric fence where the ground turned muddy and was full of horse hoof prints. The walk was full of songs. I loved this, because I didn’t grow up singing these lovely folk songs, and to this day, listening to folk songs brightens my mood.
Working on our hives in the beeyard
Spending the second half of class in the bee yard. We would first sit under an apple tree, grounding ourselves and setting our intentions. The first day I will never forget how Sharon put honey on our fingers and instructed us to go to our hive, place our finger at the entrance, to invite bees onto our bare hands, allowing them to crawl and eat as long as they wanted to hang out. A gentle approach to a gentle creature
The potluck meals and herbal teas with my bee sisters, getting to know all of them.
Drum lessons and songs.
The two hour drive home with the feeling of a full heart and soul.
Dreaming of bees and anticipating the next class.
When asked during one of the classes we were asked, “What brought you to the bees?” There were many different reasons given by others. When it was my turn, I didn’t really know, then all of a sudden, I said, “It was the plants! I am always working with and looking at plants. The bees were always there, but I didn’t take as much notice of them as I did the plants.” I do feel that the plants and bees were always trying to present themselves and it took me awhile to really see them, in a new way. In a way that they needed each other. I wasn’t just reading about their relationship, I felt that I was part of their experience. It’s hard now not to feel a part of them.
The veil, it’s meaning, and connecting during a time when the veil is thin, trusting my spirit.
The magic of mother nature. I am always honored to be part of her.
The processes and products. Those by the bees and those by us humans. What it really takes to end up with a beeswax candle, or a jar of honey, propolis tincture, and the taste of pollen and royal jelly.
The range of colors of honey is determined by the plants that the bees collect nectar from.
Graduation. A gathering with another Beekeepress Apprenticeship from Mid-Michigan, previous graduates, the procession, wearing our veils and crowns, the messages received from our mentors. The celebration and ceremony.
Learning from Sharon, a woman’s way to connect with the bees.