Bombus Affinis

Illustration by Catherine Papeil

On Monday, as I was walking to work, I noticed a bumblebee lying dead on the bike path. At least, I presume it was a bumblebee- it was as big as a quarter and black and furry. And I presume it was dead- lying still on its back. I was on my way to work at the brisk pace that the Curmudgeonly Lion refers to as ‘commuter mode’ so I didn’t stop for a close inspection.

This morning, while walking the same stretch of path, I saw another bumblebee lying dead on nearly the same spot. I mean, yes: it’s possible that it might’ve been the same body, but considering the amount of foot and dog and bike and scooter traffic that the path gets each day it seemed unlikely that a bumblebee body would’ve stayed undisturbed for so long.

What are the odds? I wondered.

This evening, on the walk home, I noticed a third bumblebee- this one still alive on its back flailing its legs in the air helplessly. I nudged it gently with the handle of my umbrella to see if this flailing was a sign of life or if it was just spasmic movement left over after the bees’s soul had bumbled off the mortal coil. The bumblebee seemed to respond. Gently, I nudged it again, tipping her back onto her feet and revealing a vivid band of yellow across her back. And then I continued on my way.

Lately, I’ve found myself searching for signs in the world around me. Perhaps it comes from a feeling of directionlessness or nihilism- a desire to construct meaning and order on an inherently meaningless and chaotic existence. Sometimes I find them and sometimes I don’t. And sometimes I wonder if I’m looking at a sign and I just lack the insight to interpret it. Were these three bees a sign of the changing season? Of the die-off of our pollinators? Of a particular toxin in that particular spot? We’re they a sign that we’re all just bumbling through life and sometimes we need a higher power to take notice and nudge us back onto our feet?

Maybe there was no significance at all: just coincidence- meaningless and chaotic.

I keep looking though.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on October 23, 2018.

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