“…To have a friend is to be one,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.
That famous quote was embroidered by my grandmother and placed as art upon my bedroom wall as a young child, complete with a bee, to emphasize the action of be-ing. What I didn’t realize then was that the bee would become an active presence in my life, a symbol of several significant things, including happiness. It even became recognized as a teacher. It has most definitely been a friend, even when one honeybee stung me, as it was later understood as an important reminder to speak my truth.
In second grade I was walking with a neighbor and fellow student home from school. He verbally teased me, prompting me to make an involuntary buzzing sound through my teeth out of frustration. That sound prompted a nickname bestowal of “Buzzbee,” or “Buzzbee Boyer,” that followed me throughout my life. At first it was an annoyance, but over time the brand became an emblem of industry, or industriousness—not a “busy bee” or busyness, as busyness was not the same as purpose. I appreciated having an ensign of productivity by association. Being a “purposeful person,” as my mother has deemed me as, seemed synonymous with the essence of the bee.
As a teen I had braces to enhance my smile. On one visit to have my braces tightened by the orthodontist, a bee hitched a ride in my hair from outdoors to inside the office. As soon as I entered the patient room from the waiting room, the bee stung me, right on front of my throat. As we know, the skin on the front of the neck and throat is quite thin and sensitive, so one could imagine how much that once-in-a-lifetime (so far) bee sting hurt! After that “pay attention” moment, the bee took off flying in the room, leaving behind its stinger in my throat. The dental assistants comically ran for their lives, until I reminded them that the bee lost its stinger in my neck and was no longer a “threat.” I gleaned the stinger with the help of a mirror and tweezers that one of the assistants gingerly handed me. Ironically, the orthodontist was far more painful than my little bee friend.
Years later, when Herbalism—the study and engaged art of partnering supportive herbs with beings—became a mindful awakening, pollination and pollinators became forefront in the quest for conscious gardening and sustainability. The purpose-full bee was again a reminder, a symbol. Herbalists and Herbal educators had been promoting the importance of preserving pollinators, with a whirlwind of articles on the why and how-to. According to one source, “Eighty percent of all pollination is biotic, meaning carried out by animals.” Another source quotes, “These hard-working animals help pollinate over 75% of our flowering plants, and nearly 75% of our crops.” A minimum of three-fourths of pollination is animal produced.
So as an herbalism community, how can we help preserve these animals, these important and industrious pollinators? Veteran Herbalist, Deb Soule, writing for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association/MOFGA taught, “The more diverse the garden and surrounding fields and woods, the more diverse the species of pollinators. Even small, urban gardens and container gardens on decks can provide food for local pollinators.” Diversity is key. Not only is food as medicine, but also life-sustaining, including for pollinators. We can provide that support through our own gardens, as well as supporting mindful gardeners, beekeepers and organic herbal producers.
In her same article, Deb provides an extensive list of herbs that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, including Bee-balm or Monarda fistulosa, also known as Wild Bergamot, and begins her story with Calendula, a bee slumber spot of sorts, and my first friend in the study of Herbalism. Bees indeed deserve to take a nap, as they are known as a “champion pollinator,” along with birds, including the hummingbird, butterflies, and even bats.
With the bounty from herbs that we grow ourselves and that others we support who grow, we can make a myriad of food and products that support self-healing and sustainability. As we choose these herbs that support a diverse garden for pollinators, we can also be a friend and have many friends, while helping heal the planet and all her purposeful creatures in a community of care.
The heart of Botaniscape™ and budding Herbalist, Lori McClellan sees the Art of Herbalism as her lifelong connection to Nature manifested most fully—another exciting medium and source of abundant joy. An Author, Artist and Poet, creating as Loretta Boyer McClellan, her works as a writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry; conscious PR, brand, graphic design, and communications; and as an Arts instructor, journalist and artist, “sized the canvas,” so to speak, for a fruitful life of expression, connection and inspiration. Author of The Nature of BEing: A Healing Journey, The Misthaven of Maine Series, and Dodging Raindrops: Poems and Prose of Beauty, Peace and Healing, Lori creates from a place of Oneness. Writing, meditating, painting, and her relationship with Nature and all beings, most tangibly through Herbalism, are her connection to the Infinite.