by Fae Rowen
This morning I walk into the kitchen for a drink of water and see a large fly on the window. Turns out to be a bee.
Well, with the diminishing numbers of the honeybee, I don’t have the heart to smash it, so I try to “guide” it out the door. Dumb human.
I get a small glass vase and cover the bee, thinking it will walk up the side of the vase. Well, when I think my arm muscles can’t take it anymore, the bee finally crawls along the vase and I pull it away from the window. I slap a piece of paper over the neck of the now-empty vase, because a bee is much faster than me and a piece of paper is very flimsy.
Now I am fully engaged in the battle. I get an acrylic block that I’ve been using to stamp some cards. I have the right tools, and I cover the bee with the neck of the vase and wait. That bee must be tired, or it’s a fast learner, because in no time it climbs into the vase. I pull it just enough away from the window to slide the acrylic sheet over the glass rim, walk to the closed door (so the cats won’t get outside) and wonder if I wiggle my nose the door will open. Doesn’t work.
But I have a human brain, much larger than a bee’s. I turn the vase upside-down with the block underneath it and put it on the counter. Now that I think of it, I didn’t need to invert it, did I? Okay, a stressed human brain.
Door open, vase at arms length, acrylic removed, the bee is free to the outdoors.
I rarely find an insect in my house, but occasionally one gets in through a briefly opened door. I was feeling proud at saving a bee. Hoping it wasn’t one of those crazy African killer bees. I see something move out of the corner of my eye. Another bee flies to the window.
This time I am much more efficient at removing the insect. But I listen and hear a disturbing loud buzzing noise. The doors are closed. I think about calling my neighbor to see if he has a beehive near our shared fence, but the buzzing is definitely inside my kitchen. Lots of buzzing, not just one bee. In the screen-covered non-working fan above my stove to be exact.
I look to see if there was a hole big enough for a bee to get through. Nope. But, oops–a bee appears at the end of the hood.
I grab two large papers and swat-guide the stunned bee outside. It never made it to the kitchen window.
I go back to the stove and listen. That tunnel above my range must be the site of a bee convention, because they are really buzzing now.
I’ve never been stung by a bee. Don’t know if I’m allergic. But I know I’m not going let bees have free access to my castle to attack my seventeen-year-old seven-pound Siamese cat. After a ten-second struggle with the desire to sit down and cry for my absent husband or father to fix the bee problem while I read in another part of the house, I go to the garage to find weapons of war.
Trashbag and a roll of wrestling mat tape in hand, I approach the stove and another bee somehow makes it through the thin mesh. This one I have to trap against the window and release before I try to cover the entire fan area with the trashbag.
You guessed it. Just as I am attaching the first piece of tape, a bee escapes right next to my face. I scream and drop everything. Catch and release the bee.
Hey, bees don’t like smoke, right? (Love that human brain!) I get some matches, light a couple and hold them under the fan. The buzzing increases, two bees fly out of the grill and I almost start a fire.
I catch and release those bees then debate about making a call to the exterminator, only to remember that they don’t deal with pests with stingers. Found that out with last summer’s hornet’s nest.
I have visions of a huge beehive, complete with a rack of dripping honey in the vent over the stove. I check my cooktop for a small sticky mess. None. Yet.
What is it going to take to get them out of there? Okay, lots of money, but how bad will the mess be? Will my newly remodeled kitchen be damaged?
At this point I really want to feel sorry for myself and have a good cry, but I know I can’t leave the kitchen. I stand by the fan and wait for the next escapee. Sure enough, antennae, head and body squeeze through between the edge of the fan screen and the hood. I let him fly to the window and slap a couple of feet of wrestling mat tape (that stuff is wide!) over the whole length of the fan. I wait. And watch. After five minutes there are no new escapees.
I go to the window, catch and release the last fugitive and finally get my drink of water before I check the taped edges. Nothing. No, really. No bees. No buzzing. Magically they’ve all disappeared.
An hour later, still nothing.
And I started thinking about the experience as a lesson. Heck, I had to get something out all that excitement, right?
If I’d just swatted the first bee and gone back to the computer, my kitchen would have been buzzing with the creatures by the time I took another break. As writers, if we just swat at what doesn’t work in our writing and continue doing the same thing, by the time we look at our WIP, it will be one buzzing mess.
Effective, compassionate action, on the other hand, can force us to become more engaged in the process. The more bees I captured and released, the better I got at it. The more words I put on paper, the better writer I become. The more tools I acquire and practice I get with them, the stronger my writing is.
When we take the time to pay attention and practice to master skills, we become even better at recognizing a problem in our work and looking for a solution. If the first attempt at a fix fails, we can try another approach, and another. The more writing skills we accumulate, the less problems we write for ourselves. We become invested in making our work the best it can be and, eventually, we solve any problems we’ve encountered with the scene or the plot or the characterization. And we sell a book.
It’s about doing whatever it takes.
The weird thing is, I have no evidence of the bee invasion. I’m sure it did happen, but I have a few friends who’ll think I’m just regaling them with a funny story when I tell them about my morning. Of course, I won’t be telling them about the writing lesson I got from the bees. That story is only for you.
Have you had an interesting life experience that taught you something about writing? Share it with us so we can all learn from it.