In the face of life’s stress, humility is a wonderful teacher. In the whirl of complexity, I sense a call to simplify. When anxious thoughts translate into debilitating moments of depression, in honest prioritization, I realize the biggest project is me.
Honey Frame Place is what we call our two acres. The name is from wooden frames filled with honeycomb in the top chamber of the Slovenian A-Z hive system. A central feature of our property is the lovely “bee house” that shelters eight hive boxes and provides an interior meditative space to commune with Apis mellifera carnica, the Carniolan variety of European honeybee.
Basically a shed that I remodeled, by American standards, the bee house seems a bit eccentric. But my customized shed is a humble, North Idaho version of European counterparts. They’ve had a few hundred years head start on the art of bee keeping. It’s amazing to tour countries like Slovenia and visit beekeepers who share passion for this important thread woven into the tapestry of their culture.
When I walk around Honey Frame Place and notice young apple trees, strawberry plants, raised beds for veggies and flowers, along with the grapevine that finally has clumps of sweetness after a few years of not much happening, my reaction is mixed. Awe and genuine appreciation mingle with a sense of feeling overwhelmed. Along with the loveliness of regenerative systems inspired by permaculture principles, there is also a sense that I must be doing something wrong.
No matter which way I turn there is a project that needs attention. Weeds and crabgrass overtake gravel paths, garden beds, and mulch. The barn and garage are in disarray from tools and multiple ongoing projects that pile up debris to where one can’t even get to the workbench. The horse stall needs mucked out. The chicken coop needs cleaned. Bikes, canoes, and kayaks need stored for winter. No matter where I look, there’s hours of work and no way to keep up. Not to mention indoors, like a kitchen remodel, shelving updates, computer website design, extracting honey to sell, and stacks of journals and writing I’d love to edit and compile. All this doesn’t even include my day job, a pastor of a declining mainline church facing budget cuts and salary impacts.
Silence is my solace and often (but not always) helps ease overwhelming feelings. Sometimes when life’s uncertainties translate into anger and frustration, writing becomes a release and helps dial down internal pressures that otherwise boil over.
Everyone needs to do their own inner work. Developing heart space is something no one else can do for me. Partnering with the Spirit, transformation of the heart and renewing of the mind involve presence with Presence. Mystics throughout the ages share echoes of this ancient call as a perennial, deeper Wisdom invites.
With a genuine desire for some sort of discipline, my truer self responds through sits of Centering Prayer. Even with active projects, mindfulness is settled into by intentional awareness. Activity takes on a rhythm through attention to the moment, no matter what the shovel digs. Humility is a gift that claims acceptance of things as they are, rather than demand perfection or crave some ideal in favor of what is.
I stare out the window and see a neglected wheelbarrow overflowing with a pile of dead grasses and dying weeds. I can smile instead of feeling chagrin. Rather than a burden, another thing needing done (Oh, I should empty that before it rains, why has it been sitting there for weeks?), it becomes a teacher that reminds me that even the debris in my life is part of an inner landscape that is loved to its core.
Listening to global news presents multiple major problems, from existential threats like nuclear options, global warming, and another year of record heat, to empires (including the United States) raging on with greed and lust for power; cultural fragmentation and the collapse of civilization are epoch-quality narratives at work. Yet like a shoot that grows from a stump, the future calls out and an integrated humanity emerges. How the world adapts to reveal a new civilization is open-ended.
In the bee house, I lay on a mat rolled out on an old communion table and listen to the hum of several thousand honey bees in their hives. The smell of pollen and wax mixes in the sweet air with honey fanned by wings that prepare a food source to last a winter. The hum of bees sounds like the energy of the universe.
Api-therapy (finding health through bees) inspires fresh, renewed engagement grounded in trust. To come alongside an ancient species going about the work of life provides a sense of hope and broadens the perspective. Each bee is less an individual and more a part of the one organism; the family inspires appreciation of the diversity of life as a living expression of Christ’s wholeness.
Honey Frame Place, like most places, always has things to do. Learning the art of letting go to hear silence speak is one project worth priority as Christ’s central task to cultivate Love is experienced at a soul level and integrated into life’s larger landscape.
Andy is an author, pastor, spiritual director, and a bee keeper who lives and enjoys the Pacific Northwest in Sandpoint, Idaho. As a writer and pastor he explores mysteries, graces, and many facets of Christ’s Incarnation. To express experiential faith of the mystical tradition, he shares sermons, poetry, and story through the eyes of contemplative faith and spirituality, bee keeping, and gardening based on Permaculture principles. He and his wife, Shawna, have three grown sons. Honey Frame Place is the name of their home property. Andy currently serves First Presbyterian Church of Sandpoint as part-time Pastor. Past sermons can be seen at www.fpcsandpoint.org.
Honey Frame Place: http://www.honeyframeplace.com.
Honey Frame Place: http://www.honeyframeplace.com.