“Do you know who I am?” she said, “I’m the one who taps you on the shoulder when it’s your time…” – Tori Amos, Beekeeper
There have been a lot of bees around lately.
Sure, the fall flowers are putting on their last display and overripe apples are irresistible. Still, a couple of times now bees have buzzed lazily around incense I’ve been burning outside and landing gently on my arm before floating away again. Not bee behavior I’m used to.
In Ireland “telling the bees” is the tradition of informing the hive when a family member has passed, and the belief that bees can carry messages to our departed for us. If this is the case, then I will need many bees…and with the cold coming there isn’t much time…
After a rainy, humid summer – the air at last cools, the nights are clear and starry. I took the pups into the upper paddock last night to watch for the Draconid meteor showers. While I watched for shooting stars they played in the tall, dewy grass, racing in and out of the ring of light from my headlamp, growling at the impenetrable dark of our backwoods. An owl called close by and I turned to shine my light into a nearby tree, just in time to see her silently lift and glide into the woods, her hunting interrupted by the dogs’ playing. I did see a few meteors before going to bed. Just being outside for a little while looking at the stars settled me after a long week and I slept well. Soon it will get dark earlier and I will enjoy autumnal night hikes. The woods become a different world at night, old magic surfaces – it is a privilege to be out there to witness it.
Autumn has always been my favorite time of year, from the first faint thrill of it in August right up to the first snowfall. This year we have already had snow on Mt. Washington, but further south the trees are just starting to turn, gaining momentum with each chilly night. Our puppy Lifa is 9 months old now, filling out and maturing into a wonderful partner and friend. Quinn and Piper settle into the new pack dynamic and connect with Lifa in a deeper way now that her puppy antics are fading. With the passing of summer and the approach of winter it is hard not to think of those who have gone before, my parents, friends and teachers who have shaped my path along the way. There is so much I want to tell them. And so I ask the bees for a favor…
“When you lose the teacher you become the teacher,” I’ve heard it said. This year I myself am the teacher, working not just with my dogs but with 8th graders. Working with kids is not all that different from working with dogs or horses, it is all about communication and patience. Finding ways to convey something in a way that the individual in front of you can understand. And we are all wired differently, we all see things in a unique way. As a teacher you need to be able to see things in a multitude of ways so you can work with a variety of approaches until you find the one that works for your “student”.
With my dogs, while I have used the same essential introductions and methods, I have not trained any of them the same way. They have each learned in their own unique way and showed me what they are most motivated by. Quinn never did take to searching, but she loves to herd. Piper loves to search but needs lots of support and encouragement, he lacks confidence in his own abilities. Lifa is just now showing us what she likes to do. She may be a “late bloomer” but has immense potential when she does settle on the work she loves the most. For me, the most important part of being a teacher is laying tools before a student and stepping back to see what they will do with them, not imposing my idea of what should happen.
My teachers have all gone on to the ultimate journey and I remain to assume the role. I am aware of the potential to influence and shape another life and do my best to “be the person my dogs think I am”. Not always succeeding, but nurturing an awareness of my intentions, my motivations and the way I need to move through the world. I am getting older myself, there are more of my loved ones beyond the veil than on this side of it. But there is no denying the austere beauty of this season and the veil thins so maybe, just maybe, I will be granted a precious glimpse of them.
Maybe the bees will tell them “Thank you” for me.