Tag Archives: bees


Last night as I was sleeping
I dreamt – marvelous error!
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

-Antonio Machado

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Mama Abeja

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.

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Do you believe in angels?

I do.

I am blessed and not shy to say that I am visited by them on a regular basis. Young/old, male/female, plant/animal…they arrive with messages, re-membering and LOVE. Every time I am visited by a bee, I feel there is an angel with me.

I am learning that there are different kinds of angels. Some are in spirit form. Some are in human form that are meant to walk this earth with you (I’m having tea with one next week). And some are in human form that do their best work in silence. You talk to them all the time without words. It’s quite beautiful.

Angels help guide us and reflect back to us who we are, where we are going and what we are meant to do with this brief, crazy life of ours. Last year a dear friend did Reiki on me and told me that Archangel Michael would be an important figure in my life. Obviously not a real person, but a metaphor for the type of energy that I (and many of us) am meant to work with.

Here is some info about this particular archetype:

“Archangel Michael is a very real cosmic being that serves on planet earth as a humanities protector. Revered in both eastern and western religions (Archangel Michael is found in the Koran, Torah and the Bible), he serves as protector of humanity and God’s will for planet earth.

No matter the situation, no matter the challenge, Michael stands ready with his sword and host of Angels to protect and serve all who call upon him for assistance. He clears the path of obstacles, he gives us strength and courage to carry on during the dark times in our lives. He fills us with hope, inspiration, and faith that the Universe is always on our side.

Michael assists us in transforming our self- limitations, he brings faith and courage as well as the understanding that one is never alone. It is Michael that moves through us when we seek to right a wrong, protect those who come to us for assistance and support and to help bring greater awareness and light into the world. If you look at a sword and shield, the light bounces from it, illuminating everything in its path. So it is the same with Michael’s energy, it is not only the power to cut through limitation and falsehood but also the light that allows us to discern the truth from the fabrication.” (from morningstar.netfirms.com & squido.com)

I just found this image of Archangel Michael - cloaked in lavender and gold

I believe that we all have this essence inside of ourselves and that people, experiences or messages come along to remind us of this. And sometimes the best work is done in silence. It’s hard to attach words to this type of evolution, and as a writer, I’m stretched to remember that non-verbal messages and knowing can be just as powerful, beautiful, comforting and healing as spoken or written ones.

Just for fun I’m sharing this verse that I wrote a couple of years ago. A poem…premonition? Maybe just silly stuff that slips from my hand onto the page….

“Angel Incarnated”

It would not matter
If you were shorter or taller
Or had more or less hair.

It would not matter
If you wore a three-piece suit,
Faded rags or nothing at all.

It would not matter
If you poured over books
Or numbers
Or if you simply liked
To count the stars in the sky.

You are my angel incarnated.
I could find you
Under the smallest stone
Or under the canopy
Of the densest forest.

In this lifetime
Or in any other
You could change your form
Ten thousand times
And still…
It would not matter.

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All we need is just a little patience…LIFE in the garden

This morning I was thinking about what I wanted to write about next, and the idea of patience kept swirling around in my mind. Then I went to lunch at Royal T (an amazing art gallery/café) and was seated next to this piece by Sam Durant:

artist: San Durant

So here goes on patience…

I have none.

Just ask my husband. I want it all TODAY. I am the least patient person I know. I live my entire life in one day. That’s not an exaggeration. And I actually don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I kind of like that about myself.

However, there is much to be learned – and even enjoyed – in the pursuit of patience (at least that’s what they tell me).

This is why the garden and I are such good friends: because the soil needs to cultivate plants and love, and I need to cultivate patience. We are a good match.

I think of my front yard. When I moved in eight years ago, it was nothing but 1000 square feet of sod. I took every last blade of grass out (plus three inches of soil) and slowly, over time, have created a little mini-tapestry of flowers, shrubs, fruit trees, aloes, agaves, roses, lavender and sage.

This did not happen overnight. Not by a long shot. After taking out all the grass (a huge project on its own), the small hillside looked totally naked. Then I set about choosing the right plants. The pick axing of the soil and shopping for plants is easy for me. It’s the patience to see my vision come to fruition that in the past has eluded me.

But guess what…in a garden, there is no other option.

I cannot plant a Meyer lemon tree and insist that the next day it be bursting with fruit. I cannot plant a bare root rose and expect that next week I’ll have a fragrant centerpiece on my table. I cannot plant a baby oak tree and expect that next year I’ll be sleeping under its immense branches. Yes, these things are coming (they are never not coming!). But to know them in my heart before I get to experience them in real life is no less real or pleasurable, it’s just a different way of knowing that kind of beauty.

These are not concepts I’m reading about in a book. It’s not an article on the web. It’s not a $200 therapy session.

It’s Real Life happening right before my eyes. This is what’s true. It’s not conceptual. Just look outside in your front or back yard.

And what’s my alternative? I want the fruit. I want the flowers. I want the shade of an oak. Who am I to demand that they hurry up? How presumptuous. Why do I think I know better or have more rights that Mother Nature herself!

Thankfully, She is always a gentle teacher. Because She knows I want the immense gifts she has to offer, but I have to do it on her time table. And guess what? I’m learning to enjoy the space in between. In between what I want and when I get it. Watching spring’s first buds. Clearing out the old dead leaves. Even hacking back the roses to mere sticks each winter is less painful for me. It’s the journey, not the destination, or so they say. (ps – you know there is no destination, only the journey, right? Just checking).

The garden teaches me that all of this is ultimately for the best. All Of It. The entire cycle. The immense growth and beauty, and the time to go into the darkness, and everything in between. It’s all ok, because it’s all necessary.

One of my favorite quotes from Apocalypse Now is: “Don’t get out of the boat unless you’re going all the way.”

Mother Nature goes all the way every day. She deals with everything, all the time. In the garden there can be too much rain, or too little rain, bug infestations, critters who steal the fruits, humans who steal the flowers. And every day the garden gives its best, under the best or worst conditions.

That’s my intention, too. To offer and receive Life to the fullest regardless of the challenges or limits put on me. Once you make peace with the fact that challenges are natural, it lets you inhabit what you have, not what you don’t have. You cannot stop the flow of the water – it will always find a way – it’s up to us how difficult we want to make it.

And as I sit here and ponder all of this, the garden just does its thing, without question or worry. Which is a reminder for me to do the same, cultivating patience along the way, and enjoying the fruits that come from it, today, tomorrow, twenty years from now or even ‘just’ in my heart.

Mama agave has a thing or two to say about patience - look at all those babies!

These beauties bloom only three weeks out of the year – am I going to tell Mother Nature that’s not enough? Enjoy it while it’s here!

Thank you bees for all you do – most of the time without us noticing or appreciating you. xx

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Bee Jam

I am a sucker for good jam. It’s not my fault. It’s in my DNA. My earliest memories of my dad are of him spooning heaps of strawberry goodness into his mouth, directly from the jar. Why bother with toast?

When life gets overcomplicated, the kitchen is a soothing place for me work things out. I can transfer the energy into something else. Something beautiful and delicious. I’m not just after the end product, but the pleasure of the steps along the way. The feel of the smooth wood floor under my bare feet; the cold kitchen tiles; the grain of the wood cutting board; the razor sharp knife; the sun coming through the windows; the hound dogs roaming, searching.

They enjoy the pursuit, too.

Yesterday I found myself in the kitchen with a gorgeous bowl of kumquats purchased from the Santa Monica farmers market. I love kumquats, but I know for many they are an acquired taste. They are simultaneously sweet and intensely sour – a perfect metaphor for many things going on these days.

I began the process by pouring boiling water over the fruits (just to soften them up a bit), then I halved them and threw them into a pot with equal parts honey and water.

Then the magic happened.

The kitchen door was open wide, which connects to my back patio of flowering lavender, and the garden beyond. Once the pot of fruit and honey began to boil on the stove, the bees started to arrive, almost on cue. They hovered, they buzzed, they flew around the kitchen with glee, smelling and searching for the sweet reminder of home.

It was a brief communion, as so many things are…their search for home inside my home.

Once the orange sticky mass cooked and cooled down, and the last of the bees flew back outside, I spooned the mixture into a pretty teacup that my friend Marylee (the bee lady) gifted me many years ago.

The kumquat marmalade was delicious – a bright, shiny, bittersweet mixture, eaten directly from the container with a spoon.

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Painting Project – amateur art for the fun of it

I was really lucky that as a kid my parents fostered my love of art. When I was nine years old, they put me in my first drawing class. I took painting, collage and life drawing classes (yes, real naked people) at a wonderful school here in LA when I was 14. When it came time to pick a major in college, I remember sitting with my mom on the couch with the UCSB application in hand, scanning the dozens of options. She asked me what I wanted to study, and when I said Art History, she didn’t flinch. I enjoyed four wonderful years of studying all types of art. I also took some art and drawing classes post graduate at UCLA in their Landscape Architecture department.

That said, I never think of myself as an artist. I’m married to an amazing artist, and many of my friends are very accomplished painters. Being surrounded by all this talent has been a little intimidating because I always compare my work to theirs – and my efforts never seem to stack up.

Since I’m getting back to my “I don’t care” basics, I’ve decided that because I love painting, I’m going to do it weather it turns out ‘good’ or not. I love the whole process: fishing through the beat up metal box of paints, squeezing the tubes on the pallet and watching the colors come alive when you mix them with water. It’s really magical to see the color that emerges from under the brush when you’re stroking it across the page.

Yet because I don’t see myself as a ‘real painter’ I’ve let my watercolors and collection of art paper collect dust. Time to focus more on the fun of the experience, and not worry so much about it being perfect. (I’m teaching these same themes to my son, by the way – there’s nothing like having a kid to give you a refresher course on what’s important in life).

I decided to go for a self portrait, with the theme of bees. A couple days ago I had my hubby take a photo of me. Then, yesterday afternoon when my son was reading from his Star Wars Encyclopedia for an hour (don’t ask) I inked in the drawing. Then, last night when my guys were busy playing Pokemon till 9PM (don’t ask), I did the watercolor on top of the drawing.

I kind of like the end result – it reminds me of how my paintings looked back when I was in art class as a young teenager. Weather I developed my style early on (yeah right) or I’ve never progressed passed a 14-year-old art student level, it doesn’t really matter. I had a lot of fun doing it, and I’m sharing it here as an expression of creating something simply for the fun of it.

study for self portrait

Self Portrait: Bee Keeper

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“Gilded Pollen Ride”

Come to me at sunrise -
Soft body
Warm beads of honey.

All the places you’ve known -
Scarlet petals,
Gilded pollen rides,
Wax combs
Filled with your amber light.

Kindred soul:
Pull me from a world
I no longer recognize.
Take me home
To your ancient hive,
A portal
Of forgotten familiarity.

{JL 9/25/11}

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How a yellow rose, a painting and the bees taught me to believe

A yellow rose in my garden, symbolizing friendship and love

When you are extraordinarily lucky, you meet someone who supports, encourages and lights up your life like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. They change everything. There will always be your life before and your life after your time with them. You are never the same.

I strongly believe that while the body dies, the soul inside of it lives on. The deepest part of who we are is immortal, and it’s this essence that connects us all together. It is always there, taking different forms, showing up exactly when we need it, in a way we can recognize, even if our minds have trouble understanding. I wish I had a logical, scientific explanation for this. I do not. But it’s something that is as real to me as the air I breathe, which I know keeps me alive, though I cannot see it.

I met Marylee when I was 13 years old. I was in awe of her sense of joy, love, generosity, passion and fun. She never held back, on anything – ever. She was the definition of living life to the fullest. I think she lived three lifetimes in her brief 56 years.

To me she was a mother, friend, confidant, and mentor. In short, I adored her. We had 16 amazing years together. Soul mates come in all forms, and she was definitely one of them.

Together we loved food, gardening, art – basically anything that was delicious, beautiful, tactile or fun. We loved to spend all day in the garden, sometimes visiting three plant nurseries in a single day. Then we’d get dressed up for tea or a yummy meal. She was all about pleasure and enjoyment, something she helped me explore and discover for myself.

When Marylee died I was four months pregnant. I could not mourn; I had new life inside of me. Connecting with a loss that great would have destroyed me. In a sense, my unborn son protected me from that. His tiny body growing in mine kept me insulated. As I watched her body and face become unrecognizable in her final days, I sensed that some part of her soul was imparted into my belly.

Life moves on and I was now a busy new mom. In 2007 I timidly decided to take a meditation class. I had never meditated before. But a hectic home life with a crazy toddler prompted me to give it a try. I needed to do something. Since running away to Tahiti in search of calm was not an option, I knew I needed to find some inner peace without having to actually travel anywhere.

The class was intense, powerful and extremely helpful. We were taught many exercises, one of which was called the “Rose Exchange.” Our teacher asked us to imagine our heart as a rose which we exchanged silently with a partner in class. It was a beautiful way to practice the transfer of loving energy.

The next day I decided to try it again alone at home, this time imagining that the person sitting across from me was Marylee. It the three years since she had died, I hadn’t really tried to connect with her. I didn’t know how, I didn’t think it was possible.

But the class was opening me up, and though it felt awkward at first, I pushed forward. During this ‘exchange,’ I was surprised to find I got a very strong sense that Marylee was actually there, and that her heart’s rose was a vibrant yellow color.

It was her birthday the next day, so I decided to take a bouquet of yellow roses with me to her garden plot at the cemetery. I left the flowers beside her name, and for some reason, even with the heavy storm, I decided to take a drive around the large cemetery, which dates back to the late 1800s.

A large free-standing crypt far on the other side of the property caught my eye. I felt this strong sense that I was meant to get out of my car, in the pouring rain, and look inside the glass windows. As I approached the little building, which was clearly a family crypt, I found myself immobilized when I got close enough to read the name on top: Lee.

Lee was a nick name that Marylee occasionally went by, and it’s also the middle name we gave our son to tie us together. I slowly approached the leaded glass windows, soaked by rain at this point. I didn’t care. I looked inside, a bit scared at what I might find, and though I knew I was crying, I could not discern the tears from rain: the entire interior – or heart – of the tomb was covered with hundreds of bright yellow silk roses. They covered nearly every surface of the walls.

Ever since the first yellow rose, which I now know symbolizes friendship and love, it has re-appeared many times: when I need to feel a connection to Marylee but especially when I’m doubting it. The same year I gave Marylee a yellow rose on her birthday, I had a special visit with the bloom on my own. As a treat, I signed up for a session with a personal trainer named….Lee. He arrived holding a single, bright yellow rose and said, simply, “I know today is your birthday and when I saw this in my garden, for some reason I felt it was meant for you.”

The rose kept appearing but I still had trouble believing. My heart and mind were at odds. Was all of this a coincidence? Always a skeptic, I still needed more ‘proof.’

So I sat down around that same time and tried to contact Marylee again to ask if all of this was real. As a very logical person, this was way out of my comfort zone. But I did it anyway.

I sat down on the floor with no script, instruction or plan. I basically ‘imagined’ myself connecting with her. I asked her for a sign that she was with me and sat there, eyes closed, waiting. Would I ‘see’ her or feel her brush my shoulder like in the movies?

For a long time nothing happened. Then I heard a loud buzzing sound and decided to open my eyes, figuring that nothing was going to happen that day. I went looking for what I thought sounded like a large fly. What I found was a bee buzzing around my family photos on a table in the corner of the room. In the nearly six years I’d lived there, I’d never seen a bee in my house. There had been flies, moths, mosquitoes and even birds, but never a bee. I opened the window to let the bee out. Then I sat back down, one last time, asking for a sign. Three more bees immediately came through the back door and once again hovered around my family photos.

What was happening? I knew nothing about bees, or animal symbolism or ways in which souls can communicate. Marylee would have known that I was a skeptic, and that I’d need some sort of ‘proof.’

So I did the next logical thing we do in our modern world and Googled ‘bee symbolism.’ I read in awe:

“Bees are considered to be messengers between worlds. They symbolize rebirth, immortality and mother.”

I was stunned.

I also learned that bees symbolize achieving your dreams, doing what seems impossible (based on their body weight, bees technically should not be able to fly) and enjoying the sweetness of life that is the reward of hard work (honey). Bees live in the garden (as I often do) and transform the heart of flowers into a golden, sweet elixir. What could be more perfect?

Even though the bee (and the yellow rose) kept visiting me at exactly the right moment, my mind was still holding me back (I am a hard sell). I could write ten chapters on all of the magical synchronicities that have occurred between Marylee and I (since her passing) but one thing in particular finally made me a believer. I’ve never looked back since.

It was April; almost a year to the date of when the yellow rose (and the bees) first appeared. I was on Rose Avenue, down the street from Marylee’s old house. I was walking to my car after a yoga class, past a café where she and I had spent many fun afternoons. I was running late and needed to pick up my son.

But for some reason, I felt compelled to walk into the café. I was not hungry. I did not need to use the restroom. Something pulled me in – by then I had learned to trust the inner voice calling me.

I walked into the café and looked around, still not sure why I was there. And then there it was, pinned high on the wall: a nearly seven foot tall watercolor depicting a redhead in a garden…dancing with a bee. I was in shock, as I had spent innumerable times meditating as a way to connect with Marylee – always picturing myself in the garden with her as the bee. I caught the artist’s faint signature. It read, simply, “JT.” My name is Jill Tracy – I was looking at a mirror of myself.

Stunned, I spoke to someone at the café and inquired about the work. I was told it was installed the previous weekend, on April 20 – Marylee’s birthday.

It was also explained to me that the artist’s intention for the painting was to symbolize a relationship or communication between the redhead and the bee, something that took place in the garden.

I knew I needed to purchase this painting, which was far more expensive than anything I had ever imagined giving myself permission to own.

I had a personal savings account that I’d held onto for a long time. The cost of the painting was within 100 dollars of what I had left in my account. Fears of being too lavish or irresponsible almost crippled my decision. But I studied art, I love art and I knew this painting was meant for me. It really did symbolize believing in all that is possible, and I knew Marylee was telling me that directly, and wanted me to live with that reminder every day, never giving up on my dreams.

This felt like a once in a lifetime experience – I decided to go for it. I made an appointment for the sale of the artwork. When the time came to go to the café and pick up my precious item, I could not find my checkbook anywhere. With no way of paying for the artwork, and now running late for my appointment, I needed to stop at the bank.

And the whole time I knew intuitively that all of this – each and every last part – was happening for a perfect reason, even if that reason was not initially clear.

I put on one of my nicest dresses and adorned myself as if attending some sort of ceremony. For me, this purchase was ceremonial. The painting symbolized my crossing over to recognizing, believing in and experiencing a world that had previously seemed impenetrable. It also symbolized believing in my dreams which was something Marylee hugely supported. She had always encouraged me to push far beyond what I thought I was capable of, “You have to look for a path you cannot see,” she’d tell me.

I could feel Marylee around me as I entered the bank and walked towards the teller to obtain a temporary check. I knew I could have quickly filled out the slip of paper at the counter, but something made me want to take my time with it. If this entire experience was really a ceremony, I wanted to honor each step.

I saw an empty desk and chair on the other side of the bank. Whoever worked there must have been at lunch or out that day. I sat down and watched my hand slowly write out the letters and numbers. Then I signed my name – something I’d done thousands of time before, but rarely with as much care.

With the completed check in my hand, I wanted to get to the café as soon as possible – I was excited and didn’t want to be late. But then I remembered to slow down and savor each part.

Right then something on the far end of the cubicle, on a table behind the desk, caught my eye. It looked like a greeting card, but I wasn’t sure. I don’t usually make it a habit of being nosy in people’s personal space, but I couldn’t help myself – it was out in the open, after all.

I got up and walked over to the card so I could see the image up close.

This is what was on the cover:

A painting of a redheaded fairy dancing in a lush, green garden, surrounded by bees.

Under the image, it said, simply:

“Thank You”

This photo does not do justice to JT Steiny’s watercolor, which is an impressive 6.5 by 5.5 feet, and covers the entire wall of my workspace, reminding me to savor the sweetness of life and never give up on my dreams

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