"When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shephard blows his nails..."
- W. Shakespeare, sonnet
...then the honeybee colony is cuddled in a tight cluster, metabolic processes at 'low flame'.
These bees are not as cold and stiff as the bumblebee or wasp queens which go through the winter months solitarily, unmovable and without food in a protected tight space. Slowly the honeybee colony moves along the honey stores-the gift of last year's sun--giving them light in the time of darkness and warmth during winter's cold.
For us this is the time to go inward, to study, reflect and contemplate, deepening our understanding of the Earth's wonders and our mission on it. This inwardness, trained and practiced at mid-winter's beckoning, will show its harvest in the months to come, when outward activity challenges our strengthened will, our heightened understanding.
This polarity of life, guided by the earth's rhythms, can also be witnessed in two evolutionary streams. The inwardness, which the Buddha had attained in his long development as a Bodhisattva, was gifted to mankind in his teachings of love and compassion. These virtues are accomplishments of the heart, are a transformation of the Self for the good of humanity.
The other stream is one of transformation of matter, of the Earth, for the good of all the beings living on this beloved planet. It is a stream that has to do with the transformation of nature into culture. Agri-culture led the way on this path, followed by the arts and sciences. The stone, earth or wood are transformed into dwellings, the clay into pottery, the metallic ore into implements and jewelry. An incredible training of human faculties are the gifts gleaned from these activities.
This stream was initiated approximately 10,000 years ago by the great Zarathustra in ancient Persia, modern-day Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. (What are we destroying there for the sake of oil and power??)
We can find these polarities, necessary for evolution, symbolized by Cain and Abel. The latter tread softly on the earth as a shepherd, only taking from nature what she readily offers, giving in return offerings in a sacral state of purity and gratitude. Cain, on the other hand, destroys the given wisdom and beauty of nature in order to learn how to create man-made wisdom and beauty, become a co-creator. As we know, we are still in this learning process, especially in modern times when the motive of bottom-line has supplanted that of beauty and wisdom.
But we did make progress, did not fumble all the time; think of the beautiful cathedrals, the beauty of the Persian hanging gardens or the medieval cloister gardens.
It is clear that we cannot do without either one of these streams, since one feeds and stimulates the other one.
We can find a being, in which these polarities are united naturally in superb wisdom and beauty: it is the honeybee. In winter, as I mentioned, there is this great 'collecting', 'gathering', its inwardness resting on the absence of outer activity. It seems to me like a state of meditation, when strength is summoned in extreme quiet and stillness, strength that is released in an incredible feat of diligent work, all focused on sustaining and invigorating nature and our lives.
In our present time we have such a difficulty practicing compassion and love--egotistical goals lead to exploitation of nature and her four kingdoms-- and at the same time we stumble from one calamity to the other in attempting to create man-made wisdom and beauty in all aspects of culture and agriculture.
Is it any wonder that the beings in whom these two sides of our existence come together in such a harmonious way, that the honeybees are our mirror for our failures. At the same time they are an example, and inspiration for how we can solve the problems facing them and us.
At the present it is the heart-warmed love and compassion that inspires so many all over the world to adopt sustainable beekeeping methods, tending the colonies with ever-deepening understanding and care. And we are so happy and grateful that we can be part of this.