Yesterday, in the early evening, as I was getting out of our pool (yes, it's still warm enough for us to enjoy a swim: the water was a perfect seventy-eight degrees, and the air temperature was just a few degrees warmer as the sun was just a few minutes from setting), I happened to notice a bee struggling against the surface of the water. It's not unusual to find a bee which has perished in the pool, as well as any number of other insects which have, for whatever reason, strayed too close to the water, and become trapped as a result of the surface tension exerted by the water. It's surface tension which helps hold a drop of water together; and it is that same force which can cling to an object, or an organism, making it impossible for it to escape. Whenever I'm able to do so, I try to rescue these helpless creatures, whether a bee, or a beetle, or a spider, or an ant, lifting them out of the water and placing them onto the ground. Sometimes I have to think long and hard about it! There are some bugs and beasties I'd just as soon not save, although I generally do, anyway. I've never come across a black widow spider or a scorpion in need of being saved from drowning. I don't know what I would do if I did encounter one in the pool, as these are two critters where the policy around the property is, basically, "stomp first, ask questions later."
Having placed the bee on the cool deck, I then watched from the edge of the water, wondering whether it had been pulled from the water in time. At first, it seemed that my efforts had been in vain: the bee was trapped on its back, as if even the surface tension of the water around it on the decking was such that it could not break free and right itself. I nudged it gently (and carefully!) to set it upright, and then resumed my vigil. The bee alternated between grooming itself - which wasn't an unexpected reaction - and staggering about in a manner which almost suggested that it was intoxicated, or, I feared, had been poisoned; perhaps by the chlorine present in the pool as a
disinfectant. Chlorine, after all, is a component of many insecticides. In particular, I couldn't help but notice how the bee kept elevating its abdomen, while at the same time dragging its hindmost legs, with their prominent pollen pouches. It wandered about erratically, at times heading directly toward the pool. I was prepared to deflect it from such a path, but it never became necessary to do so. It moved in fits and starts, sometimes looking as if it was improving, and other times looking as if it was getting worse. I lost count of the number of times it staggered and fell into one of the cracks that separates one segment of the pavement from the next, like a drunken sailor who keeps falling off a curb - a very high curb - and then stepping back up, only to fall off again. As I watched it, I couldn't help but wonder: was it in pain? Was it aware that something was wrong? Was it confused, as we might be, finding ourselves unable to control our bodies in a normal fashion?
This went on for quite a while, and I realized that I was more than a little concerned for the well-being of this little bee; so much so that I started to pray, asking the Lord to heal the bee. Almost immediately I felt more than a little embarrassed, and, still having a sense of being in the presence of the Lord, I said, "Is it wrong, or foolish, to pray for a bee? After all, it is one of Thy creatures; and we were to be the stewards of Thy creation, which would include the bee..." To be honest, I felt more than a little guilty, given that we are the ones who established and maintain an "attractive nuisance" that has lured many a bee to its demise...
Now, please understand that I take no credit whatsoever for what happened next: the glory is God's, and God's alone. The bee ceased its staggering, and began moving both normally and purposefully along the deck. I could see its proboscis was extended into the shallow irregular indentations which are the effective features of a cool deck, and I knew, without exactly knowing how I knew (although this isn't rocket science) that the bee was in search of water, and was probably finding some; the deck was damp, but only just. Slowly and carefully, coming as close to the bee as I could without disturbing it, I let drops of water fall from my fingertips to the deck, and then waited, hoping the bee would find them. Finally - it seemed to take forever - the bee came to one of the resulting puddles, stopped there for a long pause, and then, suddenly and unexpectedly flew straight up into the air about ten feet before moving off to the southwest, and out of sight.
Is there a point to this story? If there is, I think it is this: Every time we hear the accounts of saints living in harmony with various animals - St. Zosimas and the lion, who helps him bury St. Mary of Egypt; St. Seraphim of Sarov and the bear who was his companion - and every time we see the many
photographs that make their way to places such as FaceBook these days of monastics in peaceful scenes with wild animals, we should recall that, at one time, the animals lived without fear of us, and were obedient to us, until we ceased to be obedient to God. Now, they have reason to fear us, separated from God as we are, even after we have been baptized into Christ's death, and raised to new life in Him Who, having risen from the dead, has broken the power of death, which can no longer exert any hold upon Him. We still have so far to go before we are transformed into His likeness; and yet, when we love, when we reach out to help, when we remember what might have been, and mourn for what we have lost, and give thanks to God for not abandoning us, but rather establishing a way for us to return to Him, what peace, what joy, what awe, what wonder is ours! The bee will not remember what was done for it; it would be foolish to think otherwise. That is not in the bee's nature. But I will remember - at least, I hope I will remember - what it might have been like to be able to reach out with the power and the authority of God to heal, if only for a fleeting moment, one tiny, tiny part of a world which groans as it awaits its deliverance, and the incredible sense of being a servant of the saving love of God for a tiny creature in His world.