Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Through the Eyes of a Servant

In my teens and twenties I played at being a trout fisherman. Spare time took me into the woods to stumble along the banks of streams and narrow rivers. Along the way I began to notice vegetation and soil types, the makeup of the trees and the feel of the ground under foot. I looked at the plunge of water and where light came over hills and into valleys. I learned about nature, but for the purpose of catching fish.

In my twenties and thirties I worked for a farm in Connecticut. I once worked a 106 hour work week and did many 18-hour days. We planted corn, squash and other market garden crops on 1600 acres scattered from south of Hartford to north of Springfield. I learned to identify weeds; I became familiar with sumac. I learned how water flows across and through the soil by watching newly plowed land dry after rains, and much later seeing how crops grew. I learned about nature, but for the purpose of growing crops.

In my thirties I moved to California and took up surfing. I spent hundreds or thousands of hours watching waves break on the shore. I learned about what makes a wave strong, how the land and wind affect its shape. I became familiar with the things that live there, in the dangerous boundary between earth and sea. I learned about nature, but for the purpose of surfing.

This morning I went up to Andy's to see the bees. When I was there I wondered where they were going. I allowed myself the time to wander from the hive to see where the girls were working. I found some on Queen Ann's Lace, early goldenrod and a kind of thistle I later identified as Canada thistle.

In my wanderings this morning I felt again that searching that I have so many times been party to. I tend to learn from and wander through the natural world when I have given myself some sort of mission. It could be fishing, farming or surfing. I rarely go abroad with binoculars or a guide book to observe for the sake of observation. I don't know if this is good or bad, I just know this is how I am.

When, at liberty this morning, I did wander the fields in search of my girls the great panopoly of things that may be observed by me, were observed by me. There, amidst the grass and thistle, I became again a servant of mission. It is a wonder to think of them aloft above the heads of rich and poor alike, alighting on hundreds of thousands or millions of flowers each day, a thousand times too many for me to even imagine, even had I had the whole day and all the tea in China.

It occurred to me then that for the first time, I was not looking for something for myself, I was looking for where my bees were making their fortune, and that all the work done back at the hive merely prepares them for the changes in the land.


  1. I find in my writing about beekeeping I tend to be reflective and somewhat misty eyed. I am glad that I find it OK to be that way.

    Thanks Steve.