by Karen Spears Zacharias
My father may have done more of the grocery shopping than I credit him for, but the only time I recall him bringing home the bacon was the night he also brought home a sack of bears.
“Dave, what in the world is this?” Mama asked as she eyed a row of plastic bears wearing yellow hats and standing in tidy formation in her refrigerator door.
“Honey,” Daddy replied as he poured PET evaporated cream into his hot coffee.
“Nobody around here eats honey,” Mama protested. “The kids don’t like it.”
Her voice had a familiar aggravated tone to it. It was the same one Mama had employed when she discovered I’d been hiding orphaned kittens in my closet.
Uh-oh, I thought. Daddy’s in trouble. It’s not every day a kid gets to witness the mundane mechanism of a marriage worked out.
My parents rarely exchanged a cross-word between them. My eyes traveled between Mama, who was holding the refrigerator door open, and Daddy, who was sitting at the dinner table, nonchalantly sipping his coffee.
“Aw, Shelby,” Daddy said, his blue eyes lighting on her, “Throw the honey out. I thought the kids would enjoy playing with the bears.”
Mama shut the frig door and walked across the kitchen, smiling. My mother could never refuse my father’s good-humored nature when it came to us kids. His death in Vietnam just a few months later likely helped cement that memory in the foundation of our shared childhood.
Sister Tater still doesn’t like honey, and I don’t much care for it, either, but reading Margaret Feinberg’s Scouting the Divine made me wish I did.
Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in wine, wool and wild honey was my first venture into the landscape Feinberg creates and I was not disappointed.
As a journalist, I have been closely following the reports featured in the New York Times and various other media about the disturbance brewing in beehives nationwide. Commonly referred to as “Colony Collapse” entire communities of bees have disappeared and died off.
“Colony-collapse disorder is characterized by the sudden collapse of a full-strength hive in a matter of weeks, with adults leaving the hive and not returning, until the hive is deserted,” reported Newsweek in 2008.
To the unsuspecting, or just dumb and clueless, bees gone AWOL may seem like one of those slow news day stories.
Why should we care? Don’t bees sting the unaware and leave nasty welts that throb until well after midnight?
Feinberg tells us why — without being preachy or condescending, she nurtures us along:
“Without bees, the production of avocados and almonds, cherries and cranberries, strawberries and squash, peas and peaches are all affected. The balance of our ecosystem is threatened by the loss of bees, and the impact eventually affects farmers everywhere.”
The writer possesses an insider’s insight. Her mother became a hobby bee-keeper after the family relocated from Florida’s hot sands to the cooling shade of a North Carolina hilltop. The reader is left to imaginatively ponder the character that must be Feinberg’s mother-of-all-trades:
“My mom has managed to shoehorn a wide variety of experiences in her life .. She’s worked in the surfboard industry, taught skiing and snowboarding, sold real estate and jewelry, taught elementary school, and even earned her sixty-ton boat captain’s license. She’s hard to keep up with.”
Her mother, it seems, resembles the worker bees Feinberg describes following a visit with Gary, a professional bee-keeper. It is through him that Feinberg teaches us the essential elements critical to creating a thriving colony. Gary understands all too well what it means to have a colony fail. Three years ago, he lost 900 of his 2200 hives in a single winter. The next winter he lost 700 more.
The bee-keeper exposes Feinberg to the secret lives of bees and she in return, skillfully, draws parallels between our world and theirs and the God who created us all:
“Inside the hive, I catch a glimmer of how everything comes together for good. God is able to orchestrate what seems like nothing more than a swarm of buzz into a productive, healthy source of nutrition and sustainability. God has created the bees to work together for the common good. A hive is a portrait reminiscent of Paul’s vision of the body of Christ.”
It is through the bees, Feinberg says, that she comes to realize the overwhelming attention to detail and order evident in Creation. A sweet reminder that God cares for us more than we possibly know.
He loves us deeply, the way a father of merit always does.
About the contributor:
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of the forthcoming Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ‘cause I need more room for my plasma tv. Zondervan, 2010. Karen is a former crime beat reporter, wife, mom, Tennessee Volunteer, Georgia Peach, Beaver graduate of Oregon State University, sister in faith, water moccasin bite survivor and 25th Infantry Gold Star daughter. Her commentary has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, and National Public Radio. Karen and husband, Tim, plan to raise any grandchildren in a double-wide trailer with a plasma TV on an acre of land in Point Clear, Alabama. You can connect with her on her blog at karenzach.com.