Mama Abeja lived in a small town that was so tiny it was often left off the map. This suited her and her sisters and mother and aunties just fine – they rather enjoyed living in seclusion, knowing people would find them when the time was right. When they were ready. She was surrounded by creative, strong women and she was amused when her own mother would evade questions about the exact location their home: “We live near the trees where nature is our teacher and children run free.”
Yes, Mama Abeja was born into a family of beautiful graceful women artisans. They made everything by hand, and worked with nature, the animals and loved to prepare and eat delicious food. They would harvest colorful jewels from their vegetable patch, eggs from their hens, flowers from their gardens and fresh water from the small river that ran right next to their beautiful home.
But it was Mama Abeja who was in charge of collecting the honey for their sweet cakes, pies and medicines that they would share with each other, and the occasional traveler that came through. Abeja had a sense of adventure, and her favorite thing to do was to collect the wild, sweet honey from the numerous trees that surrounded her magical home, and grew deep within the forest. She knew that each nectar looked different and tasted faintly of the flowers that the bees had visited. Mama Abeja spent many childhood hours walking through the forest, deciding which tree to climb. She was a real bee charmer.
This sometimes did worry her mother, who would say “Abeja, can’t you just stay close to home and tend the hives here.” But that’s when her abuela would quickly interrupt and say, “Abeja, you go as far as you need, we’ll be here when you get back and we will make delicious cakes with your honey!”
So, she’d grab a basket and about six or so glass jars and head out into the forest, usually at sunrise. She’d walk by each tree and listen quietly to the hum of the bees. They would talk to her and tell her if their tree hive was ready for her to collect a bit of their sweetness.
The forest spirits loved Mama Abeja and watched and listened as she walked through the land. They’d hear her quietly saying, ”Ready…not ready,” as she stood before each majestic tree, deciding if it was time for her to climb its limbs to collect the honey, or keep walking until being shown where to go.
At the end of the day, when the sun was setting, her basket would be full of different colored amber liquid and she’d run home to her ama and abuela and they would cook a huge feast. It was heaven!
But no matter how much light was escaping the sky, she never went home before visiting the one tree she loved the most. She saved her favorite for last. It was the farthest from her house, but well worth the hours-long walk to get there. She would sit at the base of its trunk and listen to the sound of the nearby river and the rustling leaves and the hum of the bees and to her, this sounded like music and poetry all wrapped into one.
She was not a writer, nor was she a musician – she had too much energy to sit down and compose those things! She created lasting beauty in her own way, but she always thought it would be magical to turn the sounds – and love – of her magical bees and tree into a song or a written word. And when she’d climb each tree and commune with the bees, she would hear the bees sing songs to her through their humming, and would ‘read’ the poetry of the trees as her hands touched the roughness of their trunks, almost like reading Braille.
As Mama Abeja got older she found love and started a family of her own. She was shocked when she had not one but two sons. Since she came from a family filled with so many women she assumed she would be surrounded by sweet daughters to help her collect honey, make delicious foods and hum with the bees.
Well, that is now how things went, and Mama Abeja had to use all of her energy and patience and will to try to wrangle two such wild young boys. They wanted to conquer the forest, rather than just live peacefully within it. Tearing down trees, pulling and throwing stones from the river, hunting. You get the idea.
Abeja’s abuela, who was quite old at this time, would just smile as she watched all of this unfold. Abeja found all of these antics distressing, but her abuela found them to be amusing.
“One day they will be ready,” abuela thought to herself, “though today they are certainly not ready!” And she would laugh as she watched her great grandsons rebel against everything their mother was trying to teach them about the forest, their traditions, and, of course, the bees.
Years later, the boys grew into handsome young men, and would bring eager young women home to the small house by the river to meet with Mama Abeja. Naturally, the ladies were very taken with the entire experience. The gardens, the flowers, the delicious meals made with love served on beautiful dishes, the fresh honey, and, of course, the magical forest. Mama Abeja was the crown jewel of all of this magic, and sometimes the brothers were not sure if the young women they brought home fell more in love with them, or with the experience of such rare, simple beauty that flooded the air around Mama Abeja. She wove all this magic together so effortlessly.
The brothers would bring the young women out into the forest, down the river trail and often to the most majestic tree – Mama Abeja’s favorite. They loved many women out there, who willingly and happily gave themselves and their bodies to so much beauty. It was a happy exchange.
But there was one woman who was not like the others. She eagerly walked the forest floor with the younger brother after a heavenly meal with Mama Abeja, one full of laughter and love. The brother took the woman to the magical tree and thought that she would offer her body to him as all of the others had.
But she would not.
This puzzled the younger brother, who was expecting things to go another way with the woman. “I don’t understand, why you have travelled so far with me if we aren’t going to be lovers,” he said to the young woman.
“We are lovers, and this forest is full of more love than you can even imagine. Don’t you understand, Pure Love can only come from inside, and is a ritual expressed through creativity, as with the artisans of your family. Have you missed what your mother and aunties and abuela have shown you all this time? They make food from the earth and the honey, baskets and arrows from sticks and needles…has all of this been lost on you? ”
The younger brother hadn’t thought of it this way. His entire family was so full of women, that he’d taken to the wild ways of his older brother, without giving much thought to his actions. He loved his mother, his Mama Abeja, but instead he’d followed his brother’s trail.
“It seems to me that if you really sit with all of this infinite beauty, you will understand that every time you hear the bees or swing from a tree branch or drink from the river, you are making love with the Purest Source and that source enters into you and gives you Life, which you then share through your passion. But it doesn’t have to be a physical passion; it can be doing what you love, and sharing it with others. That is the most divine exchange, because it endures. There is no end to it.”
He’d never thought about it this way, but it seemed that perhaps this is what Mama Abeja had been trying to show him all along, he just wasn’t ready.
The young woman said to the younger brother: “Your mother has taken to the bees, their magic and their honey, is there nothing in this entire forest, in which you’ve grown up, that you’ve taken to? I don’t mean conquered from the outside, I mean taken inside and transformed, the way your mom climbed trees in her youth to collect honey and then turn it into cakes and treats and medicine to soothe your family.”
The brother sat for a moment, and then blurted out, much to his surprise, “I want to be a story teller, but I don’t think I have anything interesting to say, and I think the people might misunderstand my life. So today, I know I’m not ready to share in this way.”
“That’s perfect,” said the woman, “What about your brother, is there anything here for him?”
The younger brother paused for a moment, he hadn’t thought of his brother. Then he said, “He has always loved music, but he is so busy conquering things and finding ways to use his power, that I don’t think he can hear what’s speaking to him on the inside. The inner music that wants to come out. So, I guess he’s not ready either.”
The woman spoke: “It’s okay not to be ready, but if you have a desire, and it is meant to be, it will come around when the time is right.”
And with that, the brother and the woman lied down together under Mama Abeja’s tree and felt the warmth of the sun trickling down through its leaves cover them like a blanket as the bees swarmed around above in its branches, doing dances and singing songs, ones that would forever live inside and flow between their hearts, even if they were never physically united.
Many years passed and Mama Abeja felt her body catching up to her, and realized that soon it would be her time to go back into the Mystery. Her boys were grown, though no less wild, and she felt happy with a good life lived.
She went on her last and final walk to her favorite tree, way out at the end of the forest, and it took her all day to get there. She marveled at the river, the forest animals that had been her friends and at the beautiful blue sky overhead.
She needed to go tell it to the bees, as they say.
She sat under her favorite tree and explained to the bees, and the tree, that she knew she would be going soon, but that she was still worried about her sons. “They are always still searching, in women and in places outside of themselves, because they haven’t found True Passion inside of themselves, let alone a way to share it. I always thought that one day they would be ready, but now I’m not so sure I’ll see it in my lifetime.”
The tree and the bees loved Mama Abeja very much and they wanted to help her and her sons in any way they could. They worked out a plan together, and explained it to Mama Abeja:
The bees spoke first. “We would gladly come down from this tree and live in a man-made hive so that the brothers could start a bee business and make money from our honey.
The tree spoke next: “Abeja, I will gladly give my body, as you are about to give yours, so that the sons can use my wood to make these hives. And they will be very successful and have a thriving business.”
Mama Abeja was brought to tears. The bees and the tree loved her and her sons so much that they were willing to sacrifice everything for them.
“You have offered the sweetest and most generous gift,” said Mama Abeja to the bees, “But I cannot ask you to leave the home you love to go live in a home that constricts you, to make honey for profit instead of for love.”
She spoke next to the tree: “You offer all that you are for my family, which is Love beyond measure, but just because I am leaving this body, doesn’t mean you should leave yours. I cannot condone this.”
The bees and the tree would not take no for an answer, and explained that there was a trinity between them and Mama Abeja and that her time to go was also their time to go. They wanted to go with her. And so, after a long discussion with many ideas going back and forth, Mama Abeja, the bees and the tree worked out a plan for the sons after her passing. Their inheritance, so to speak.
Once it was all settled, a leaf fell from the tree with a dot of honey for Mama Abeja to bring to her lips, and she knew it was time to begin the long walk home under a midnight moon. She was happy. It would be up to her sons now…
On the night of her death there was a great storm, and all of the forest shook and trembled as Father Sky came down with immense intensity and vigor. The sons were at Mama Abeja’s side and watched her slip into a peaceful last sleep, though the wind and rain outside was anything but peaceful. Mama Abeja was over 90 years old and she was happy to return to the earth, her true Mother. She was ready.
The next morning as an honor to their mother, the two brothers took the walk out to Mama Abeja’s favorite tree with bouquet of her favorite yellow roses – an offering. They were shocked to find that after the storm, of all the trees in the forest, Mama Abeja’s tree was the only one that had fallen over. It lay on its side in one perfect piece – totally whole and undamaged. The brothers could not believe their eyes. They had lived their entire lives with this tree, and their mother, and now both were gone.
At the base of the massive trunk, which lay on its side like the shape of a flower or sunburst, there was a tiny jar of amber colored honey with a small note attached. The younger son handed his brother the jar as he read the note out loud.
“Find your passion inside, and do with me as you please,” was all the note said.
For some reason, at that moment, a memory passed into the younger brother’s awareness and he thought of the one woman who would not give herself to him all those years ago, lying under that tree. She’d asked him what his true passion was in life, and he’d told her he wanted to write stories. And she’d asked about his brother, too, and he’d told her that his brother loved music. But at that time…they were not ready.
And so, beyond all logic or reason, the younger son knew, at that moment, in the deepest place of his heart, that his brother was meant to carve beautiful instruments from the trunk of the tree, and that he would take the left over shavings to make handmade paper upon which he would write the magical, bittersweet story of his life.
It was an epic, beautiful tale, though a long road to get there. And in their own ways, the offering of the tree allowed the brothers to finally come Home to themselves and become artisans and creators of beauty, like their ancestors, just as Mama Abeja always knew it was meant to bee.