Beesnest • 5 July 2010

Bees in the eves. We smashed up their nest, which appeared in the corner of a high gable the same evening I read Nick Flynn’s cycle of bee poems.

Narasimhan says insect homocides describe the margin of violence natural to householding, so there’s no reason to get dramatic about it. But destroying the nest felt cruel, like forced relocation. I thought of the Trail of Tears, which always comes up the first week in July, one way or another.

The bees rebuilt inside the walls. So much for walls.

Now they appear in the bedroom, navigating whatever microchannels the cold uses to find me in winter. If we stop the killing, which I often do because they’re harmless and beautiful, there are a dozen crawling on the globe light by evening. Flynn’s third bee poem, Hive goes:

Once we filled an entire house with it/ built the comb between floorboard/ and joist, slowly at first, the constant/ buzz kept the owners awake/ then louder, until the honey began to seep/ from the walls, swell/ the doorframes./ Our gift./ The had to burn the house down/ to rid us.

I notice it like this this, and don’t fight it, because I am also feeling benignly infiltrated by Owl Whisperer. More than the familiar few ounces’ weight of a teacher on my shoulder, this is like having my over-all boundary of self palpated or even tickled until I feel the whole membrane of me. By bees? Bark beetles? I don’t know, some hive-minded creature. I could experience this as torture, but instead it’s a little bit freeing.

We had a talk about method, Whisperer and I. How much backstory should I give when I introduce a new character or theme? Even though I’m learning to relax in to a stream of consciousness to expose channels I myself can’t see, it still feels rude to drop new material without preface. This is how narcissists and Advaita-people talk, because they don’t recognize the subjectivity of others—because they operate as if their little subjectivity is Consciousness Itself.

Still, I don’t want to fall in to preparing for session. Turns out It’s normal to rehearse a persona to offer to your therapist. Sometimes, analysands do this to try to care for the therapist (care for themselves) on an existential level. Consistency of persona is a gift to others: It’s ontologically gauche to change up your personality midrelationship.

But preparing solidifies my rationales and makes the work too slow. I hate working hard instead of smart. For now, what seems to be most efficient is to put my emoting, projecting, planning, remembering, ultimately defensive and selfy mind at bay for a few hours until Owl Whisperer says the invocation. “Is there anything you’d like to talk about today?” No. I mean yes.

Another strategy. Karen and I have been talking about what to do when you come to a block in relationship. About mechanisms to create space when point of view and negative emotion are becoming solid. What if, just before you turn to stone, you reach in and find some really vulnerable thing? If I get really curious in a moment of anger or (more often for me) extreme impatience, very good information is available. Sometimes just by offering the other person a bit of that information—giving up something true rather than closing off the fight—the interaction softens up.

Anyway. The Fourth of July is like Purim this year. Much of the professorate has family cottages—Martha’s Vineyard, Mackinaw Island, Telluride. But a few of us have other kinds of high summer associations. Today, among PhDs from humbler backgrounds, I will put vegan corn dogs on our tiny grill, and one of the greatest economic minds of her generation will match them with the low-brow no-bake cookies that are Iowa’s idea of a family recipe. There is firebrand sex researcher who’s inherited a Ford extended cab truck that she usually keeps hidden: later we may take it to Ypsilanti for the Camaro Superfest. No irony, no satire. Just a little honest Americana. One day in 360, that mostly unfelt part of me loves to express itself.

When it’s hot around here, the air is so heavy. For now we’ll sit under the trees crunching ice and talking slow until the fireflies and firecrackers switch another Fourth of July over to night.