When Bees Talk…We Listen

BeesBy Solveig Nilsen-Goodin, Wilderness Way Community, Portland, OR

“I heard something…” she said.

I had just spoken the final, “Amen,” closing the prayers at our weekly gathering as the Wilderness Way Community on a sunny Sunday afternoon in early June. But she had heard something. And she needed us to hear it too.

It was a message from the bees.

It’s not every week that someone receives a message from bees at Wilderness Way, but that day I had invited the community to open themselves in prayer in a different way. Because we were meeting in Alberta Park (which we do as often as weather permits as it is right across the street from our usual indoor meeting place), I asked everyone to touch the earth in some way while we prayed.

Then I invited them into extended silence, opening themselves to God’s presence in any and all ways: a presence that grounds them through the earth, breathes in them through the air, speaks to them through the sounds of the natural world. Perhaps, I added, another living being might want to offer a prayer through someone in the community. Perhaps, even, one of God’s creatures has something to say, some wisdom to share, some guidance to offer as well, to “those who have ears to hear.”

With that invitation, we entered the silence.

At some point I spoke into the silence, asking people to speak any prayers that had come to them.

The silence continued.

And continued.

Finally I closed the prayer time (thinking, truth be told, “Well, ok, that was an experiment that didn’t quite work!”).

That’s when she said, “I heard something…”

“The bees want to be considered in our decision-making,” she said.

Again, silence. This time it was the kind of stunned silence that happens when you hear something that takes your breath away.

The silence was broken by another voice, this of a woman who was new to Wilderness Way gatherings. “Oh my God, I heard the same thing!”

“And this week,” another voice added, “Someone came to our front door asking me to sign a petition to ban neonicotinoids, pesticides that are killing native bees at terrifying rates.”

By now we were all so stunned it was hard to know quite what to do. How do we transition from a triune message from the bees into the announcements? The way we know best at Wilderness Way…through song. And not just any song, but one of our home-grown Wilderness Way songs that proclaims, in fact, that we seek wisdom from the bees.

We seek wisdom from the trees,
from the stories of Jesus of you and of me.
We seek wisdom from the bees,
from the practice of Sabbath, shalom and jubilee.
Cuz’ this is life. This is life!
And I want to be alive for it, I want to be alive!
Cuz’ this is life. Sacred life!
And I want to be alive for it, I want to be alive!

Perhaps the bees have been noticing us singing that song. Perhaps they’ve been secretly observing us for years. Perhaps they have been listening to our words and watching our actions, testing us over time to see if we were trustworthy. Trustworthy enough to listen. Trustworthy enough to receive their message. Trustworthy enough to honor that message. Trustworthy enough, even, to respond to the quiet, desperate plea for survival of these extraordinary beings…magnificent creatures upon whose magnificence rides, minimally, one third of the world’s food supply. As goes the bee, so go we.

“The bees want to be considered in our decision-making,” she said.

Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

So Wilderness Way is listening. This year we are intentionally learning and discerning how we best consider the bees in our decision-making. We brought a beekeeper to our gathering last week, and we are noticing, listening, asking, pondering, seeking wisdom from the bees, and discovering together how we can support and defend them.

We will keep you posted about what the bees are teaching us, how they are transforming us, and how they are influencing our decision-making. And we invite you to do the same!

2 thoughts on “When Bees Talk…We Listen

  1. Thank you so much for sharing what arose from ‘touching the earth in some way’ in praying together.
    St Francis of Assisi in his Canticle of the Sun knew about the speech of creatures. I sense Patti Griffin does as well. Listen to her sing “All Creatures of Our God And King” when you’re ready to touch that holy place. Find her on youtube or copy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lq3UIzQVx_s

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