Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Service

Over and over again in yoga yesterday, Sianna and Darren, in keeping with the weekend's theme, asked us what we were in service to. They spoke a lot about Gandhi and his eleven vows -- and the 11 was the foundation, not just of the price of the classes ($11/hour!) but also of the practice (11 different back bends). Gandhi and his followers were in service of the truth. How do we serve when we practice? What do we serve in our lives?

Clearly the question sank it.

But I didn't really realize it until I was in the shower just now and thinking about whether or not to go today, to the final in the series of classes. I was just thinking about going to the nursery and looking at plants that our bees would like, and of being in service to our bees. Whose lives are lived in service, really, to the needs of the hive.

And then I remembered how yesterday's class felt so much like being in the hive, surrounded by the thrum of all of the other happy bees in the room, held up and held together like members of one community, devoted to one end.

So of course I'll go today. Because on such a deep level, the practice is service, so it doesn't matter if I'm tired, if I'm a bit daunted. What matters is being there, doing my best, participating in this great service.

And could there be any better way to spend a Sunday?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What made the day amazing

Today was a perfect day. I can't believe my good fortune. This is how it went.

- Waking up naturally, no alarm. OK, so I woke up at 5:30, lazed til 6:30 -- felt so good!

- Heading out to check the bees at 8, which seems to be the time right now that they begin their flights. Hanging out with Joe on a bench that we moved under the apple tree precisely for the purpose of bee-servation, watching those golden sweeties do their thing.

- Walking on the levies with Jasper, where I saw a cormorant sunning himself on a stump, wings completely outstretched. Hilarious.

- Reading biology homework in the sun for a while.

- Checking the hive around 11:30 and being totally stunned by how productive those creatures are. 3 out of 5 frames with comb on them, and the beginning of the fourth. Plus, handling the hive is such a treat. I thought it would freak me out, but it's calming and satisfying in an utterly unexpected way.

- Being in San Francisco for yoga. Since it was just about 70 degrees out, people were out in droves in shorts and tank tops, enjoying what passes for summer weather in those parts. Such a great feeling on the streets.

- Practicing yoga for three hours with Sianna and Darren, and the deep pleasure of an Om and invocation sung by 50 people in utter harmony with each other. Now that's some bee-buzzing.

- Seeing Lisa and Rachel, old friends from my street, from Everett, from Lowell, for a few hours. It's a lovely thing to have those bonds that withstand the passage of time.

- Driving back across the socked-in Golden Gate Bridge, and looking back at the city, glistening white buildings on rolling hills rising above a bank of fog.

- Watching fog pour over the Headlands and vultures circle over Strawberry.

- Coming home to hot stew and a glass of wine.

Damn, that's a whole lot of Good. I am so lucky.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


The bee experience so far has been utterly amazing. The class at Green Gulch Zen Center with Alan Hawkins was everything I hoped for - plenty of time looking into hives, plenty of time building frames, plenty of laughs with other bee-ginners. Shaking our bees into their new hive yesterday afternoon was super-fun, as was assisting Rebecca with shaking her bees in today.

Overall the thing I've been so struck by is the bee-mind that beekeeping requires. Like diving, the optimal physical state is one of utter calm, smooth slow and deep breathing, and that observatory frame of mind, taking in everything happening without reacting quickly. With the bee-veil over my face, I quickly drop into that undersea mind -- go quiet, slow, and calm. It's utterly restful.

I did manage to get stung yesterday - totally my fault, and I much regret the sacrifice of that one lovely bee. And what struck me the most as it was happening was -- yes, how much it freaking hurt -- that I didn't panic, I didn't move any faster, I just slowly moved away from the hive, pulled my pants down (got me in the thigh), and got the venom sac away from me.

This morning I spent about 1 1/2 hours sitting next to the hive just observing what the morning's activities would bring. I was utterly lost in bee-vision, fascinated, every sense engaged. After yoga, visiting the bees was my first order of business. After Easter dinner at the Amons, checking them for the night was the day's last To Do.

It's so delightful to be sharing space with these 10,001 remarkable organisms. They are teaching me so much already, lessons that are particularly well-timed.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ready? Okay!

Today's the big day that we pick up our three pounds of bees and Queen from Alan, our beekeeping teacher. We'll spend the day making frames for our hive, participating in demos, and watching a video about how to catch a swarm. It'll be our first day of wearing our bee-veils for a purpose [a purpose other than prancing around the house in them in our underwear, naturally]. I am so excited about this!!

In preparation for today's events, I've been re-reading the materials we were given in our first class, along with the packing slips from the beekeeping supplies we purchased. Thought I'd share a few tidbits:

- from the veil (did I mention mine is a white plastic pith helmet with black veil, charmant!): The veil is protective from bee and other insect stings when properly used. It is not warranted to be sting proof or guaranteed to prevent access to the body by bees or other insects. Hmm.

- and final words from the packing slip of the bee smoker, which we will use when we open the hives (not because the smoke stuns them but because it makes them think Fire, so they gorge themselves on honey and therefore slow down): Use good judgement and common sense. Some would say good judgment means not messing with bees, but OK.

If nothing else, this is going to be really interesting! But I am expecting a fine adventure, with some delicious honey as the reward....

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ananda tandava

And here we are, in th isbeautiful place, playing just because we can, participating in this joyous ananda tandava -- this blissful dance of the universe -- just because we can.

Oh, how wonderful!

How Precious is Solitude

I am on yoga retreat in Mexico with my beloved teacher, Laura Christensen, meaning that I have the great pleasure of two classes a day with her, four hours on my mat in awe of her teaching and beauty. I am one of a group of 22 women, each almost without exception more amazing than the last - funny, intelligent, talented. I have laughed really hard at least a hundred times by now, several times to tears, and have spent luxurious periods by the infinity pool reading. The food is delicious and bountiful, the view and the villas just stunning. Most wonderful, I do feel like I have a whole new crop of friends and sisters, something which never ceases to amaze me about the yoga practice -- the unbelievable people it delivers into my arms.

And yet, with all this company, I find it hard to shake my need for solitude, my growing itch to be apart, to be alone in my thoughts, with my thoughts, to be diving through the woods with Jasper at my side. Crazy, isn't it?

I'm finding the biggest challenge of being here not the mustering-up of enough energy to get through four hours of practice a day. That's easy. It's more the challenge of being part of a group when I am so accustomed, I am reminded, to spending a lot of time alone. As I write this, in a perfectly idyllic setting, I realize that I have one eye on the screen of my laptop, another on the woman who sits at the far end of the sitting area willing her not to try to engage me. [And she does keep making sounds as she's looking through a coffee-table book, her unsubtle attempt to kindle conversation. But she's a whole 'nother story, the odd duck, the one off-note in a breezy harmonious melody.] Creating alone and quiet time requires intention and commitment that can be hard to maintain when there's a party going on.

The rest of the group is mostly down at the beach for meditation this morning, while I've stolen time to come read Mary Oliver, stare at the ocean, and meditate in my own way, by sifting through the contents of my own brain for something worthy of sharing here. It's an honor and a privilege to be here, as well as a balancing act all on its own -- how to be with others and still maintain a quiet interior, a lesson all its own.

Ting, ting, ting, goes the spoon in the coffee cup at the other end of the sitting area, but my thoughts are undisturbed. I hear it, but it doesn't upset the calm of my own form of meditation.