Bees and Flight, Darkness and Light.
Special Note: here’s a soundtrack designed for this essay–you can click on it to play it, then return to this window to read for “the full Monty” if you like.
Daylight is the fountain of youth, and there’s no shortage of seeming noonday above it all westbound.
That’s the way we go, backs to the east and the dawn that’s gone, west to the sun as fast as we can.
We’re younger back there and some of it’s hard to remember: dawn is the time of half awake, of coffee poured and routines started by rote and necessity that give way later to more elaborate undertakings.
Takes time to get your eyes open, to acclimate to the world in general and flight in particular. We’re younger, earlier, closer to the dawn; smaller than now but taking flight nonetheless. Doesn’t seem so long ago until you look back, and then the earlier flights are clearly a different time with different people.
The shine of everything, the newness before a thousand times over makes each seem more like an extra lash of the minute hand rather than a special moment. That was an era of firsts, of an undercurrent of discovery and faith that the cycle would be ever more new and larger ways to fly.
And all of them would last forever. Of course they would, it’s just from that particular momentous “now” that races behind us, linked inextricably to the dawn from which we’re always outbound, they did last forever–it’s just that we didn’t.
Inch by inch, our westbound flight does what we hardly notice as we follow the sun: things change, even as they stay the same. And there’s the conundrum of westbound flight.
The more we repeat the things that were “new” and exciting “firsts,” the less they are that and from the standpoint of time, the less room there is for truly new and exciting as we do diligence to the process. Family. Income. Lifestyle.
Running the machine composed of the endless gears of all that shiny pioneering, they require time and effort that limits the discovery that brought them into our time in the first place.
Still it’s ever westward, tailwind, headwind, bumpy or smooth–we’re on our way, keeping the sun as high as possible over that world of rare, short shelf life newness.
Yet there are those who fly who care little for the clock and the sun that at its highest arc warmed wings best for flight; even the key to navigation in relation to the westbound sun matters little though the routine flight is spectacular and with great purpose.
There’s no fear in this flight, oriented by the sun yet oblivious of the fireball’s second by second dip from the top of the sky, slinking to the west. No thought for the hazards that also awaken with the new day, disguised with jewel-like adornment that is night’s mourning of dawn’s heat, promising nothing but doom.
Relentless, westbound just the same, with lessening notice of the good or bad as the remarkable is subsumed into routine by repetition, blossom to blossom, noon till sundown and onward we fly.
Takes a herculean effort to not give in to the opiate of monotony. Almost have to pinch yourself, remind yourself exactly where you are. To acknowledge that the flight itself is as significant as the destination, maybe even more important: this is the now that’s fleeting, that is relegated over the shoulder toward the vanished forever dawn.
Face it: the cloud swing is moving, just as the sun is, ever west. Looking ahead, it may not seem so but looking down, the illusion is clear. The gears turn now, but not forever and never the same as “back then.”
Because like the bee’s wings, they cool and move more sluggishly in the diminishing light. Not such a ready flex or easy reach as the day fades, but it’s still easy to underestimate the power of light and loss in the creeping of darkness. As time goes on, that requires more deliberate effort for any creature transcending the automaton-ish, hive-centric bee’s life.
If you do, you won’t be fooled by seemingly carefree flight that is borne more of indifference than courage. Because what he doesn’t know–but you do–is this: the sun will win this race, fleeing westbound and eventually, leaving you without a shadow. The molten gold near the end is beautiful,
but darkness waits just beyond and as Swinburne warned, “. . . in the end it is not well.” Bees go somewhere at night and eventually, don’t fly any more. If the sun shines brightest on the liveliest, then this is truly “the rest” of life.
To know or not know that ending won’t matter as much then as it does now while there’s still daytime left. Never mind the bees buzzing unconcerned around the fountain of youth, that’s the promise of light.
Soundtrack: “Stormy,” Chris Manno–Lead, Bass, Drums.
The bee’s story: I was heading to breakfast in Nashville yesterday, getting ready for another day in the sky. Looked like he was doing the same, which got me to thinking. I’m lucky he didn’t sting me for sticking the camera in his face, but he seemed more interested in his collection business than in me. Or maybe he wanted to be part of this story . . .