A Hundred Gourds 4:2 March 2015

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On Two Bee Haiku, a Meditation

by Jim Sullivan

The first haiku is a bit of a sleeper from Ruth Holzer that caught my attention a few years ago.1

fullness of autumn –
the beekeeper’s husband
scoops out the hive 2

My reaction gravitated to the beekeeper’s husband which excluded the wife/beekeeper. This seemed odd. At the end of summer when the beehive is full of honey, why would the wife who has worked the hive all year send her husband to harvest the honey? The word “fullness” helps explain this for me. Fullness applies to both the hive and to the wife. The wife is pregnant and tired and sending her husband for this task. I think this is something most fathers understand. There is a pleasing interplay between nature and human events.

Another cut on the "beekeeper's husband" is a play on the term "farmer's wife" and the roles are now more equal. Equality and partnership have reached the rural areas. This is indeed a "full" haiku.

The second haiku from Melissa Allen delves into the strange fascination with bees and hives.

bees buzzing my dread of namelessness 3

Melissa Allen’s haiku above is crisp and tells a tale we can all relate to. The buzz of bees can take many forms: a single bee buzzing in the garden, a bee in the house while you are reading, or the large background hum of bees entering and leaving their hive. What kind of bees these are is probably defined by the dread of namelessness. These are hive bees going about the daily business of doing the work of the hive — gathering food and protecting the hive. The hive is central; an individual bee is anonymous and totally unknown. And again, the interplay between nature and human emotions.

Most people want to separate themselves from the unknown masses. They want to enter a place “where everybody knows my name.” Call it community, call it comrades, call it family and friends. We want to be loved and cherished as individuals. The dread of namelessness is a common and sound emotion.

But this type of meditation leads me to another level. Christian monks and Buddhist monks want to reach a state of “namelessness.” The ego and the me need to be submerged. This dread of namelessness now becomes a dread that we all must face and embrace. Namelessness is both good and inevitable although it goes against the way we want to live and conduct our life. While bees are nameless immediately, we do strive to achieve some sort of name within our family and our community. Maybe it lasts 20 years, maybe 70 years. Eventually even our children, our friends, and grandchildren forget us. We fold back into nameless history. This is the natural order of things. There is a delicate balance here. We strive for the power to create good and leave the world better, yet namelessness is the correct and final disposition.

And now going back to the Ruth Holzer's haiku there is a hint of namelessness in the impersonal designation "beekeeper's husband." The poor guy is taking on the activities of a nameless worker bee. (Not to mention the generations of women who lived by a designation of "somebody's wife".) The family/hive is expanding and the husband has a new role. I can hear and see the wife completely and rightfully absorbed and focused on the birth. Sometimes nature and "hive" activities have a way of winning out.

1. Large portions of this commentary first appeared in the author's blog, haiku tales . The blog is now inactive.

2. Ruth Holzer    A Hundred Gourds, 1:1, December 11, 2011

3. Melissa Allen    Monostich, Saturday, July 16, 2011

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