Month: October 2014

The List


Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of getting older is realizing that you are, actually, getting older and realizing the implications of age. This, I understand, is difficult to understand the younger one is. However, I think the lesson learned from this realization is important no matter what age we are. Consider…

One day you receive a letter in the mailbox addressed to you personally. The letter has no return address and is handwritten. You open the letter up anticipating the contents while at the same time nervous, excited, somehow knowing what the letter is. The envelope drops to the ground and you unfold the contents. It is a list. The list, you realize, is a list of your hopes and dreams, your goals and the expectations that you have developed over the course of your life. In short, it is your bucket list. You read the list a bit nervous, a bit excited, as you come across long forgotten dreams and current expectations that you realize you’ve never shared with anyone. You put the list in a drawer, bringing it out to entertain your friends on occasion: telling the story and reliving the moment at the mailbox. Years go by and the paper yellows but does not become brittle. One day you take the list out and realize to your horror that somehow the list is shorter. The thought, “I must be mistaken!” shoots through your mind. This cannot be; lists such as this do not become shorter. But, they do, and your realize this at the same time that you realize your hand is shaking. Instead of pulling out the list to entertain friends, you now hide the list in a box on a shelf in the closet. You cannot face looking at it anymore because you realize that throughout time you have not accomplished the goals, the dreams on the list. You realize that you are getting older, and the list is getting shorter. “How can this be?!” you think. “As I get older, I need to cross out the items on my list!” But you’ve crossed out only a few. The riddle weighs heavy and you reluctantly pull the box out with the list in it. You hesitantly open the box and carefully lay the list out on the table; you unfold the list slowly. You realize when you finally look down that items on the list are slowly fading, right before your eyes. You realize what the list is: it is a list of possible dreams, of possible goals, of possible expectations. It is a list of possibilities and as you grow older that list of possibilities fades.

Although it is difficult to understand and perhaps even more difficult to accept, the list of possibilities in life grows shorter as we grow older. I can only hope that we can realize what is possible and act upon those realizations. I have been told, and have come to believe, that the most difficult step is the first step. Take the first step towards your goals before the list is nothing but a blank and brittle memory.


That Which We Cannot Do


Nature teaches us a lot if we choose to listen. However, sometimes the lessons we learn from nature remind us that life is difficult, that nature truly does not, it cannot, care. The difficulty in learning this lesson is that as people we do care: we care about nature, we care about the things and people that we take responsibility for.

Two months ago, my bees were plentiful, filling three boxes. I noticed a problem (varroa mites) and treated them dutifully. I saw the results and the results looked good. I was hopeful and planned on having my bees overwinter to welcome them into the Spring. Nature had other plans, however. A few weeks ago I started noticing wasps coming and going, and noticed a drastic decrease in the number of bees that were swarming around the hive. Upon opening the hive I was horrified to find that most of the hive was empty. Rather than 30-40,000 bees I was met with 2-3000 bees!

I was and still am devastated. Questions run through my mind as I search for answers. The few remaining bees, including the queen, continue to hang on but there is not much hope for the winter. The twist in my gut continues even now, when I’m writing about this. I run through the possibilities and what I could have done differently, but the answers are the same.

I have read the books, the blogs, the forums and watched the videos. I have studied and went to classes; I have taken responsibility for my actions; I have dutifully fulfilled my obligations and still failure. I have been taught the lesson that nature teaches all things: 1) that life is difficult and that nature does not, and cannot care, 2) that there are often not answers to the questions that we ask; that there are not possible solutions to all possible scenarios. Perfection does not exist in nature not matter how much we as people care about nature and the things and people that we take responsibility for. Sometimes, there is no other way.

I am also reminded that no matter the twist that we feel in our gut, we must persevere; there is no quitting. It does not matter whether it was the wasps, varroa mites, colony collapse disorder, or my own doings, there must be a new hive next spring. Although we cannot know for sure why this must be, it must be. This is what makes us human: we must educate ourselves about the world around us, but we must also morally educate ourselves: we must educate ourselves about the world within us.

Life is a battle and even if there is no purpose for the dead and the dying, we must act as if there was. To accept the void as lifeless is to accept that there is no hope, but we are human; to accept that there is no hope is to give up the very thing that makes us human, and that, we cannot do.



This time of year is worrisome for beekeepers. The cold is coming on, and we worry about food stores, hive health, and of course the cold. I have had a wasp problem these past few weeks that came after I got the mite problem under control. I was told when I began to consider beekeeping that mites and honey is the top two reasons people quit keeping bees. I can see why those issues are at the forefront.

The cold is hard on many of us, not just the bees. And it is not that cold where I live; at least not yet. I look out the window and the sun is shining. I step outside and it is below freezing. I think the bees simply react, but people, people think too much. I know that I do. I lost a lot of sleep worrying about the wasps, and then I think about the cold, the food. The worry continues. However, worry does not work; worry does not help. Worry hinders, is a vicious cycle, and is unfortunately inevitable.

On Wed the weather will warm up and I will check the hive for the last time before I close it up for winter (so I can worry about the food stores). I’ll make sure the wasps don’t have a nest in the hive (so I can wonder if I got all the wasps out if there is a nest). I put a mouse-proofer on the opening of the hive and add some insulation to the top (so I can worry about moisture this winter). I’ll wrap the hive in some black roofing paper (so I can worry less about heat).

I’ll do what I can for the bees that I’ve taken responsibility for, and this is where the worry comes from: I have taken responsibility for something. Any person who has taken, truly accepted, responsibility for something understands the worry that goes along with the responsibility. In the past few years, self-sufficiency has played an integral role in life and along with self-sufficiency comes self-responsibility.

I wonder about those people who did not have the choice of self-responsibility; they had responsibility thrust upon them by the nature of their lives. Such responsibility is a heavy burden, but perhaps (like the bees) such responsibility is not noticed because it is simply the reality of life: it is living.

In today’s society our worries have changed perhaps because our responsibilities have changed. We worry about our job, if the grocery store has what we need, if we have paid our bills and if we can continue to pay our bills, our children, our marriage. These worries are no less important, but they are different. Such responsibility is a heavy burden but after a while we do not seem to notice because it is simply the reality of our life: it is living.

I have learned, even in such a short time, from my bees that I must understand what I need to worry about. But in order to do so, I must understand what I am responsible for. Maybe that lone bee coming back to the hive on a cold day with a load of pollen is not worried because it is doing what it does, doing what it needs to do, doing what a bee does naturally. I think that perhaps what we worry about is not as important as why we worry about the things we do. Perhaps worry is not a waste of time, but a reminder that time is short, the cold is coming and we have (in fact) no time to worry.

Liberal, Commie, Bastard


It is state election time here and again I am reminded that the language we use often mirrors how we feel rather than what we think. One piece of mail that I received regarding a state candidate was simply emblazoned “LIBERAL”. I have to wonder about the purpose of such claims. When I do, I remember John Stuart Mill’s writings on “Classical Liberalism”. There are ten principles. Here they are in short:

  1. The life of each individual is an absolute and universal moral value.
  2. Every individual owns his body, his mind, and the labor thereof.
  3. Every individual has the right to pursue activities for the betterment of his life.
  4. The rights of an individual to life, liberty…are not granted by other human beings.
  5. The initiation of physical force, the threat of such force, or fraud against any individual is never permissible.
  6. The sole fundamental purpose of government is to protect the rights of individuals…government is not the same as society.
  7. Every individual has the absolute right to think and express any idea.
  8. Commerce, technology and science are desirable.
  9. Accidents of birth, geography, or ancestory do not define an individual and should not result in manmade restrictions of that individual’s rights or opportunities.
  10. It is a moral imperative for humans to expand their mastery of the universe indefinitely.

The above ideas were expressed by Mill in 1869. What I find interesting about these principles of classical liberalism is that most of these principles have been absconded by the present-day “conservatives” which brings me to my point about language: it changes. I would suggest that to use language is to express ideas not create ideals. It also reminds me that in order to own a word, I must have clear understanding of that word.

It is important to remember in these days of political posturing that it is not only the language that we use that is important, but the ideals that we abide by: we must own the word we speak. To call someone a “liberal” is neither good nor bad. However, the reasons that we have for calling a person or group anything are good or bad.

It is much easier to rely upon rhetoric rather than principle to express ourselves, especially when we are not certain of the ideals that we actually hold, nor why we hold them. It is much more difficult to understand what we say before saying it than it is to say something that we really don’t understand.

Politics may be rhetorical by nature, but they are meaningless without the ability of society to understand the underlying ideals that are expressed by politics. As Mill is also quoted as saying, if we don’t educate ourselves, we deserve what we get.