“Living here, Salmon have taught me not to be afraid of death. I’ve watched them as they showcase how they live their final moments… when they know ‘it’s time.’ They live in the ocean all their lives yet when ‘it’s time’ they make their way back to where they were born. It’s a last fighting struggle to head upstream, up waterfalls, against the current. They’re emaciated and dying, yet they fight on, heading upwards…having sex for the first time in their dying moments, so the cycle goes on. That’s how I would like to approach my own death…and hopefully having sex for a final moment of ecstasy as I say my goodbye.” Laughing, this is how Serena answered my question with her story about Salmon and the beautiful stream in her backyard.
The other life lessons she’s shared have come from Mason Bees. Paul and I are working at Monika and Serena’s Organic Mason Bee Farm, in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. It’s a HelpX exchange of work for board and lodge and getting to live like a local, experiencing another life, walking in someone else’s shoes. When I was a child my father kept bee hives on our farm, so I am very familiar with farming bees for honey. I’ve discovered there’s so much more to bees than honey…and slowly I’m also discovering an alternate way of life.
Mason bees are solitary and do not have a hive. Every female is fertile, there no are no worker bees and their sole purpose is to be pollinators. Our timing is perfect, because it’s Spring, time for the bees to emerge from their winter cocoons and the bee farm is in full swing. Drinking home made organic blackberry-merlot wine to stimulate our creative-thinking we had a fun-filled evening of assembling bee nests for the Farmers Market. On Saturday we set off early, to sell and share the story of the Mason Bees.
The market was beautiful and something unique. Paul and I had a wonderful time sampling the local delights: honey vodka, chocolate truffles, medicinal mushrooms, water buffalo yoghurt, blackberry-merlot champagne, turkey sausages, caramel waffles, strudels, pastries and cheeses. We sat on the grass listening to the band, watching people go about their usual Saturday morning lives. Paul reflected on how wonderful it was just sitting there, not focused on doing anything, but just being there, just being present. With a cheeky grin, he said: “That’s what we were made for after all, that’s why we’re called human ‘beings’ and not human ‘doings’…”
Paul’s comment was lovingly aimed at me, encouraging me towards my greatest lesson which is learning to enjoy every moment, to stop focusing on achieving and getting things done. Serena had spoken about the very same thing when she explained how the Mason Bees had taught her about the liberation of not working in a hierarchy, for a queen bee. It seems they’re designed to go about their lives on their own terms. Unlike honey bees who serve industrial agriculture, mason bees go about their lives solo, just for pollination.
Paul and I are enjoying spending time with locals, walking in someone else’s shoes, so to speak. For us this journey goes beyond seeing the sights, and spending time with locals is granting us an understanding of alternate ways of life.