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Flying With the Queen Bee

Written & Narrated by Dov Rose


“Our pains and our struggles may be the seeds of our greatest treasure. These seeds may blossom into healing beyond our wildest dreams. We must befriend our symptoms and our circumstances. They are not the enemy. Our problems are a gift from God.

~      Amber Rose, Bee in Balance

In hunting caps, in jeans, in granny dresses and in neat white blouses and long skirts, they agglomerate, seeking the temporary perch on which to swarm, en route to their final home.  The air carries the scents of honey and ginger and pumpkin, the amber waves of grain.  Singly, in couples, and in small affinity groups, they emerge from the ancient elevator in what is now the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Middletown, New York, on the Southern Tier a few miles from where New York touches on the meeting place of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  These are the farmers, the housewives, the firefighters, the repairmen, the schoolteachers – the beekeepers – and this is the monthly meeting of the South Eastern Beekeepers Association.

Soon their president strides in among them, casual yet imperious in his yellow T-shirt which reads SAVE THE BEES! and his jeans and his Australian bush hat.  James, though of the middle height and young, is clearly a giant among these men and women, a Gulliver among Lilliputians.  When he calls the meeting to order there is scarcely a whisper in what had been a loud humming glade.

Tonight is to be, as the Jewish Haggada has it, different from all other nights, because tonight SEBA has opened its doors to the bee queen, Amber Rose.  As her leading drone, I buzz gently among them, familiar with these scenes yet full of anticipation at their response to her presence so long awaited.  After a long prelude, in which the secretary and treasurer (the same person, though she complains of the work and invites the positions to be filled by two others) give reports and the plans for the coming months are laid out by president and Vps: backyard potluck suppers followed by hive demonstrations or fundraisers against CCD (colony collapse disorder, the mysterious and massive deaths of bee-colonies which threatens large portions of North and South America and Europe.  After what seems like centuries but is likely only 30 minutes,  Amber steps to center stage.  Her blonde locks and dark clothes sparkle with cherry amber stones, the burgundy-black fruit of the Lithuanian earth, the mineral equivalent of the products of the bee…in fact, the liquefied and resolidified resins of various ancient trees, the habitation of equally ancient bee colonies.

She begins to talk about the ride in Disney World in which you, the visitor, become a miniature doctor injected into the bloodstream of a patient and become part of his diagnosis and treatment.  We don’t, she tells us, have to wait for a real miniaturized doctor: we have an inner physician in the form of our own body’s defenses.  The bee, when she stings, simply calls these defenses to arms.  The bee, then, is a kind of physician’s assistant of the first order, an angel of the god of healing.  This swarm of beelovers leans forward as if to enter into her words, brush their stamens and pistils before emerging and moving on with their lives.

I’ve heard it all before, but that does not prevent me from being caught up in her flight.  This bee queen, this princess of bee venom therapy, is and always has been the love of my life, ever since, as 7-year-old cousins, we ran in the waves of Long Island and I first looked into her solemn little golden face.

But we grew up quite independently of one another, even if together at every family function from the age of 6 to the age of 17, and even if living scarcely two miles apart in the urban Bronx and the near-urban Mt. Vernon, New York, just the other side of the NYC line.  In my life, the honeybee meant the country, stings, yes, but mainly the strange experience of being surrounded by blossoms.  I remember being in Wurtsboro, in the Catskill Mountains, for four days, and seeing nothing but a haze of lilac pollen, for my eyes were swollen shut.  The country, for my school-aged self, was a place of fragrance, bee-humming, bird-calls, and blindness. 

When I started the long climb towards and through adolescence, two things happened simultaneously: I fell in love with my cousin, found it frightening, and tried to sublimate it into the quest for some “unknown” romantic ideal; and I fixed on a future career as an heroic fighter against world hunger.  I had a program: I would study biology and specialize in botany and apiary science, eventually ending up at Cornell Ag School where I would fly to the top of the hive and on to save the underdeveloped world.  The failure of that dream – based on the harsh truth that I was no scientific mind – propelled me into another: that of saving the world one person and one group at a time, a kind of two-level plan — revolution on the collective level and romantic fulfillment on the individual.   But my career as radical and poet ran up against the obstacles of family, capitalism, and tradition, and I settled for far less than I dreamed.  The trail leading out of the wasteland in which I was to lead most of my adult life was to be my cousin Amber.

* * * *

She is talking now about the healing properties of bees, or rather, of the healing properties of the human body and how the bee’s venom stimulates those properties so that the body may heal itself.  The beesting, she tells us, is like the cursor on your computer, pointing the way to the word or sentence to be written or edited.  When the body sends our an alarm to that place, it also cleans up any other related problem.  As an acupuncturist, Amber thinks in terms of the “meridians” of the Chinese system of anatomy and physiology.  But this is not a system that promotes the idea of the divided self.  Instead it transgresses and transcends the borders of physiology, psychology, metaphysics, neurology, etc….It is a medicine for the whole self.

Amber tells us that before she visited China in the fall of 1993, she thought she had invented the idea that stinging people in the acupuncture points and along the meridians was more effective than “stinging where it hurts,” the practice of her mentor, the famous Charlie Mraz of Vermont, the “king of bee venom therapy.”  (His name evokes many murmurs of recognition and admiration.)  Instead she discovered in China that the Chinese had known for 5000 years that the honeybee stinger was the original acupuncture needle!  Amber’s role has been to bring this knowledge to the USA, to widely disseminate it, and to make it user-friendly. 

* * * *

From the reactions of this audience, she has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.



Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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