Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Box of Bees

I dreamt I was holding a box, perhaps the size of a child's shoebox. I don't remember receiving the box, but I knew I'd gotten it from my father. It contained bees. A new hive, partially built, housing mostly larval bees and a few young adults. The hive had grown considerably since it had first been found--it had then been maybe the size of a finger. But it was growing rapidly. I could expect the hive to double in size in the very near future and, it would seem, nearly all at once. If I didn't find a larger box soon, the hive would literally explode sending a swarm of angry bees on the rampage.

I held the box deliberately between my hands as I and a couple others walked through a quiet wood. Although I can still remember the beauty of the forest, in the dream I was too distracted by the box to enjoy the reverent hush. The box was my responsibility: whatever happened to the hive was up to me. My burden made me very nervous, for I am none too fond of bees. As a biologist, I can certainly appreciate them, but as a person who has been stung more than once, I am wary and mistrustful of them. When it came down to it, what I wanted most was to be rid of the box completely.

But there were limitations to what I was allowed to do with the box of bees. I wondered why I couldn't just throw the whole thing in the lake and drown them and be done with it. But one of my companions told me that, no, the water wouldn't kill the bees and my action would just make things worse. I thought of a few other possibilities for destroying the box but these were similarly shot down. No one said anything to imply that I had any moral obligation to the hive or the bees, to guilt me into thinking my desire to get rid of it was necessarily wrong. It just wasn't practical. It couldn't be done that way.

I remember feeling frustrated at this point in the dream, wondering why the hive hadn't been destroyed when it was tiny and harmless. I didn't get a definitive answer from anyone, just the feeling that, once again, that hadn't been an option.

One corner of the box was starting to wear and break along the edge of the lid and I became quite concerned. I found myself with Dan in a house, the two of us observing the box as it sat on the breakfast bar. We could see through the lid, the little fuzzy bees gently undulating and humming as they drank nectar and grew. It was almost sweet, this little nursery I had charge of. But that tear in the lid was worrisome.

Then it struck me. I could tape the rip with clear packing tape. And if I could do that, I could tape the entire box completely shut. Seal it with layers and layers of packing tape. That would prevent the box from exploding when the hive suddenly grew and effectively suffocate the bees.

As I started wrapping the box, a few of the young bees escaped. Eiledon came up the stairs at that moment and smiled to see the little bees flying around. I, on the other hand, felt sick with anxiety. While Ledon saw cute, bumbly baby bees, out of the corner of my eye I could only see them as sinister wasps with long, skinny bodies and trailing hind parts hanging threateningly--and far too close.

We managed to return them to the box. Eiledon accidentally killed one with her fingers but only giggled and said, "Oh, they're squishy!" I continued to wrap the box as tightly as I could, hoping if I just covered every speck of surface, my problem would be solved. Yet I was aware of someone telling me, "No, you can't do that. At the very least, you need to allow a small hole for thus-and-so" (I can't recall the specifics) and I kept thinking, Why does it matter if, ultimately, I was supposed to destroy the box, or at least dispose of it? Wasn't I?

I awoke still with that awful, heavy feeling of unease. I was grateful the dream was over and I no longer had to try to figure out what to do with this silly box with which no one seemed to be able to help me. I couldn't destroy it, though I felt I was supposed to be rid of it. I couldn't give it away but I had no idea why I had it in the first place. When I tried solving what I thought was the problem, it created more problems. And through it all was this sort of dull dread that at some point soon, if I didn't figure all of this out, the box would explode.

What could it mean? I wondered, half awake. What on earth WAS that box of bees?

"Eiledon," said a voice. Not an actual voice, but the revelation was so clear and sudden it seemed spoken aloud.

The previous night she had been particularly difficult. I could grasp the significance of that fear I have of being stung. I want to do what's right, to be a good parent, but I'm tired of being the target of her anger. Much as I try to blow it off, those cute, fuzzy bees lurk, wasp-like just out of clear view, sinister and frightening. I find my worst character defects rising in response: anger, self-righteousness, the need to WIN the power struggle. I find myself seriously disliking my own child—or worse, wanting her to THINK I dislike her in an attempt to shock her into common courtesy or, at least, obedience.

It doesn't work, of course. Backfires every time and then I've my own guilt and shame in addition to the heaps I've just ladled onto her with my icy stare and dark scowl.

I don't know what to do with this box of bees. As a parent, I have to grapple with the implications of realizing that I wish she were other than she is. That she comes to me in my dream as something dangerous and unpredictable. There must be some instruction in the dream. Is it enough that I identify my own part in creating the problem? It's a start, I suppose. Maybe the box is my own heart and it needs to have room for the WHOLE Eiledon, not just the cute and fuzzy parts.

Bees are wild and beautiful, they fly, they sing, the make the world more verdant and bountiful. Eiledon is all these things. And ready or not, she is growing up. I need to find her a bigger box, and soon.

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