BEEING ME

If my last post had you thinking I spend a great deal of time sitting on my porch processing ancient wisdom passed on to me by the grass in my pasture, I apologize for misleading you. Yes, I have been known to stop frequently to smell roses, but as far as having hours on end to do nothing, that rarely happens. You see, one of the advantages to being energetic and ambitious is that you get everything you need to get done done in a timely fashion, leaving you with blocks of time you can use any way you want. We space cadets, on the other hand, tend to extend a task to the point where what should have taken an hour can stretch into a day, so most often there's a lot of catching up to do.

Where we live in Costa Rica is a good place for those accustomed to having things take a while. Aside from the heat slowing down the pace of life in general, the jungle likes to throw frequent challenges our way. We have a bathroom that is half inside/half outside. One day I noticed some curious bees zipping in and out of the spaces between the bamboo slats on our cabinet. I sternly warned them not to get any ideas about moving in there, but apparently they didn't hear a word I said because the next day, we first heard, then saw a major bundle of buzzing bees zeroing in on our bathroom. In less than five minutes, a whole colony had moved in to the top shelf of our cabinet.

Certainly an entire hive's worth of bees in your bathroom cabinet is something that requires immediate attention. Fortunately we could call Butterfly Mike, an American entomologist who keeps bees on his butterfly farm nearby. Less than two hours after the bees moved in, Mike, all decked out in his beekeeping duds, was smoking the bees out. He scooped out two big bowls of bees, reaching into the middle of the cluster to be sure he captured the queen. He then dropped the bees into a box and waited on our porch for the sun to set so he could drive the bees over to his property with less chance of them taking off on him. In the short time the bees had resided in our cabinet, they had already laid the foundation for their waxy honeycomb. Although I'm not incredibly industrious myself, the bees who come from my property are prolifically hardworking; Mike says they're the best honey producers he has.

Before we moved here, I had no idea how very many different varieties of bees and wasps there are. We are quite popular with mud wasps. We're forever clearing their nests out of our house. This is what happens to clothes in my closet:

These muddy tubes come in clusters, as shown, or longer single tubes that look like cigars. You can hear the mama wasp frantically buzzing around inside the tube, putting together a nice nursery for the little ones. Inside each tube are wasp larvae, and little spiders and insects paralyzed by the mama wasp and added to the nest as nourishment for her offspring. I feel terrible when I bust up a mama's nursery after all her hard work but it's one of those things I just have to do. We also have plenty of honeycomb-style nests and nests that look like light gray paper balls. The wasps are big. The wasps are small. They're all black, they're striped, they're yellow and brown, they're HUGE . . .

This one sounded like a B-52. It's a bit curled up here, being dead and all. Plenty of wasps come zooming into my kitchen in a day, but this one was by far the largest and loudest I'd ever seen. I sort of felt as though I should give it a name and a proper burial.

Before I moved here I didn't think much about bees or wasps. It never occurred to me that they come in so many different colors, shapes, and sizes. Now that they're such a part of my life, I see what a diverse group of creatures they are. An alien landing on our planet would most likely look at all humans and notice only what they have in common - their humanity. Only after becoming familiar with the species would the aliens notice differences among them.

Planting yourself in someone else's culture is a real eye opener. It is a humbling experience to live among people with backgrounds so different from mine and realize that what I always took to be truths are only what my particular tribe fabricated to make things work for us. Here where the culture is so different from my own, I can see more clearly the beauty of the diversity among humans that makes life so interesting.

I've admitted to not being the best worker bee. After all the time I've spent striving to change my nature because production is so highly valued in my culture, I have finally concluded that I was just cut out to be a philosopher bee, which, in itself, is a beautiful thing.