Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Kathryn Devereaux
It was a honeybee. I held my breath, and stood motionless.
The solitary bee flew to within a foot of where I was watering my flowerbed, and busied itself with a bloom on my lavender bush.
It was only after I had seen a recent news report about the mysterious collapse of honeybee colonies worldwide that it occurred to me I hadn't seen a honeybee all summer. The significance of it hadn't registered until I listened to beekeepers from around the world describe the devastating consequences for agriculture. Who knew that honeybees made possible nearly one-third of our diet by pollinating more than 90 of the tastiest flowering crops we have?
But here at last was a little gold and black survivor who liked purple flowers, and it was a welcome sight.
I looked at the bee carefully, as if I had never seen one before. Actually, I hadn't seen one. Not really. I gazed at its patterned wings and the fuzzy little hairs around its pollen leggings. I watched it maintain a precarious perch as the blossom swayed in the breeze, while nuzzling an impossibly small flower. Championship bull riders never had such a challenge.
I usually didn't like insects coming so close to me. Such an event usually called for Raid or a fly swatter. Now, gratitude changed everything. I wished it could hear me whisper, Thank you, and it didn't feel the least bit weird to find myself talking to a bee. Time seemed to stand still for just a heartbeat, as something like hope welled up in my chest. Humans make many mistakes, but we still have these amazingly helpful bees.
The bee flew a little closer to me, seemingly oblivious to my presence, and I could hear its steady hum. It was so… alive.
In that moment, an insect I had always considered a threat suddenly became a creature I wanted to protect. Reverie over, my mind changed gears swiftly. What if it considered me a threat, and stung me? It would die. I couldn't let that happen, so I moved away slowly. Then the breeze kicked up, and I wondered if it would be able to get home safely. Rain was on the way. Should I catch it in a jar, to keep it safe until the rain passed?
As if to answer my question, the bee flew away as suddenly as it had appeared.
That night as I lay in bed listening to the wind and rain, I wondered if the bee had survived the day. Other bees I had encountered in years past flew slowly through my mind as sleep neared. I remembered how a bee had once landed on my arm during a picnic, and how scratchy its legs had felt on my skin as I brushed it away, yelping in fear. Maybe they choose drama queens on purpose, for fun.
Tomorrow, I will walk carefully in grass with clover.
Kathryn Devereaux is a writer currently living in Davis, CA.
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