The Birds and the Bees. Without the Birds.

Imagine that you are a walking down the sidewalk when, suddenly, you hear a buzzing from behind you.  You do not have much time to react before a black and yellow blur comes straight at you.  You scream at the bee that has just startled you and say that “he” must be in a bad mood.  What most people do not know is that bees are not attempting to scare, sting, or eat you.  They are only acting on a single-minded mission to protect and provide for their colony.

Honey bees actually have a complicated social structure called a caste system that gives them a specific role in their hive.  This system has drones (males), workers (sterile females), and a queen (reproductive female).  That bee that flew towards you on the sidewalk was probably not a “he” because the only members that go far away from the hive are the workers, who all happen to be females.

These workers grow from fertilized eggs laid by the queen and are chosen to be a part of this group while they are still larva.  They make up a majority of the hive’s population and get the joy of running the hive with none of the benefits.  When they are young they air condition the hive by beating their wings and as they grow up they leave the hive to forage for food and protect the area from danger.  Since they are the only group that is able to sting and are irrelevant to reproduction, they will then forage for nectar for about 45 days and die.

Drones, on the other hand, are kept around a little while longer so that they can mate with the queen.  Drones are determined by being laid by the queen as unfertilized eggs.  Have you ever heard a woman say “I wish we could lock men up and only use them when we want to have kids,”?  Well, bees actually do that!  Drones are the only male members of the colony and their sole purpose is to mate with the queen, and other than that all they do is consume nutrients.  In fact, in the winter when resources are low, the queen will actually kick the drones out into the cold to die! That’s cold.  Pun intended.

The queen is obviously the most important to the hive in terms of continuing the population.  Among the entire population of female larva born, a select few will be chosen to be fed a special nutrient called “royal jelly”.  This means that more than one queen at a time is grown, but only one will survive to reproduce.  The first of all of the possible queens to mature will search the hive for the other growing queens and kill them to become the only reproductive female.  At this point the queen will briefly leave the hive to mate, and after her first flight she will rarely leave again.  This is most likely the only time she will be away from the hive.

So imagine a world where there is one queen, barely any men that all live in the dungeons waiting for the queen to call, and huge amounts of women harvesting food and fighting armies who threaten their city.  If you can imagine all of that, you know how the caste system of the honey bee works.

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The Mountains Are Calling, and I Must Go.

The following is a journal entry I wrote June 15 in an attempt to express the feeling of living in the Western mountains.  At this point I had lived in or within sight of the Sierra, Bitterroot, San Gorgonio, and Tehachapi mountains.  There is so much history there and I learned a lot during my time in the mountains.  I have connected with non-living nature in a way I did not know was possible and the only way I know how to convey that connection is through sharing my own words in the form of a journal entry and the words of John Muir.  “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

Journal 6/15/2014

‘I just wrote the date on this page.  June 15, 2014.  I don’t know when it became June because I don’t remember it ever being March, April, or May.  In fact now that I think of it I am not sure my mind has truly known the month since January.  Why is this?  Maybe because I have been removed from the world, or that is how some would put it since I have been without television or internet for most of that time.  If it came to the words of John Muir he would probably say not that I had been removed from the world, but that I had, for the first time, entered it.

For the last 8 months I have been living near or in the mountains.

February-March just outside the Sierras, less than 2 hours from where John Muir himself was inspired by the Yosemite Vally.  April-May in Northern Idaho in the Bitterroot Range which Lewis and Clark traveled through.  June in the San Bernardino Mountains close to the tallest peak in Southern California: San Gorgonio. And finally, July in the Tehachapi Mountains.  They were all very different in climate and appearance but in the end they had very much the same effect on me.

Tehachapi Mountains

Tehachapi Mountains June 26, 2014

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San Bernardino Mountains June 11, 2014

They called me.

John Muir said, “The mountains are calling, and I must go,” and now I understand why.

Nowhere have I experienced peace like I have standing by myself among the mountains.  You don’t feel alone because the mountains feel like they have souls.  They feel ominous and sometimes conscious.  AND IT IS SCARY, because you feel a little crazy that you feel like a huge chunk of rock is conscious.  But it is also comforting.  They feel like a big brother who only wants to keep a sideways eye on you while you play, just to make sure you are safe. I would never have understood John Muir if I had not entered some of the very mountains he spent his life in.  The mountains do feel alive, and therefore they can call.  They call like a siren, unavoidable and beautiful, and take you away from the hustle and bustle of the civilized world to live with the land.  It makes you want to stay forever and takes you from time.

Time moves slowly during the days and it feels like you have time to do all the things you desire, but since there are no dramatic stresses or events you can easily lose track of what day of the week it is, or even what month.  Even though I work here (I wish I didn’t have to) I am still captivated by the mountains.  It is nearly impossible to understand if you haven’t experienced it but I am glad now that I can say first hand that I understand John Muir.  The mountains are calling, and I must go.’

 

I don’t know if this will mean anything to anyone or make you feel any of what it feels like to be at the base of a 10,000 foot mountain but or stand on its peak but its the best I can do!  And someday if you get the chance you should experience it yourself!