What's the Bee Busy About?

“Busy,” my dad quotes a line, from someone, someone old that he knew or maybe someone knowledgeable that he didn’t. “But what are we busy about?”

It’s an odd statement from someone who constantly flitters about in a constant state of action or invention of something to do. He’s drawn to being busy. Busy as a bee. Me too.

People are like bees, but bees are also like people.

I find myself trying to decide which I’d rather be. I haven’t watched the hive much. It sits out of view on the other side of the barn. In fact I avoid its tower, stacked up white layers. During the summer, I watched them mostly from the other side of the garden next to the sunflowers that became seed skeletons for the birds in a few short months. Though I didn’t see them, I heard my dad complain about them like he does the neighbors.

“I didn’t see them on my apple blossoms,” he began. “I be they’re over there in the neighbor’s alfalfa.” He clears his throat, “So then what’s the point? And that alfalfa, it’s spread with manure sludge. Nice.”

“At least they’re busy. They’re doing their jobs,” I tried to console him, because we were promised local honey.

My dad reminded me, “They tiptoe into the hives of other bees. They steal. The beekeeper sets out plastic buckets and reused soda bottles with sweet substances to keep them from being tempted.”

Busy, busy little bees are like people, because keeping busy in their own spheres with the resources that belong to them is somehow not enough. Can’t you just see them plucking their furry little feet and keeping their antennas close to the wall? Heads down they walk, or maybe they fly, into the hive next door to steal honey. Are they aware of the destructive nature of their instincts? Are we?

People are like bees, busy, busy bees. We flit about anchored only by someone else’s power. In his chair, the recent British royal engagement was a lead news story. “You know the academics say, we all really just want a King,” he offered.

“Or I suppose a Queen,” I thought. If bees are any indication, that would preferable. I was less angered by the screen time spent on someone else’s prince than on the story that comes next, the short list for Time’s person of the year. Of eight, or nine, or maybe ten, faces, I couldn’t remember, only one looked like me.

“Hive brain,” a writer friend called it, an unconscious gathering around one idea that starts repeating itself. Like the bees, we haven’t escaped it. I turned back to my job applications, the gym schedule and the Christmas list. “I’m busy. Yes. But what am I busy about?” My own thoughts, my own ideas, my own priorities, or everyone else’s? Just because the end results taste sweet like honey doesn’t mean they’re not from flowers peeking out of manure.

I want a job so that I am busy enough to know that I'm not all that busy. Then I hear it. A buzzing.

“Busy,” my dad quoted a line, from someone, someone old that he knew or maybe someone knowledgeable that he didn’t. “But what are we busy about?”

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