Updated: May 19, 2020
While I work in my basement office, a bumblebee emerges from the white painted ceiling and buzzes around the room. It’s looking for a way out, hitting the hanging paper lanterns and disappearing behind the frame that holds a painting of a long green crayon—this space doubles as our son’s playroom. The bee I help outside, sliding the window open to the breeze. Two hours later, another fat bumble appears. The next day, three. Except these aren’t bumblebees—no yellow markings on their abdomens—but carpenter bees emerging from our foundation.
Four years ago, I worked on an exhibit about bees and looked at photos of larvae curled in tight rows inside the stems of plants, or in the soft, old wood of houses like ours. These must be bees leaving the nest. It’s a distant problem to address, requiring web searches and solutions, but I can’t bring myself to worry.
This spring in Minneapolis has been stunningly beautiful. The earth is happy, says the pagan I listen to in a podcast, because we aren’t clogging her skies with planes or fracking her bedrock. Though we (or our administration) are/is doing plenty of other harm, I feel this--the way the flowers bloom especially bright and the green canopy of leaves stuns me to the point of dizziness. I don’t recall tuning into this animate pulse since my son was born, but also, I have less work to do in my basement office, which means more space to notice. That’s most of it—working less, surrendering again to nonstop parenting. There’s more time, less time, nothing sticks or stays. The days don’t accumulate in the way they used to. But do they ever add up to anything? I’m not sure.
Our cat has left a mouse in the rain garden we’re digging and filling in with plants. Our son arranges chunks of cedar mulch to shape an open grave. I notice this, letting the mouse sit in the air, not rushing to bury it.
Lying in bed upstairs, I let two candles burn to the bottom of their ceramic holders until the flames snuff out. I watch the windows as light leaves the sky. Downstairs, my partner is reading to our son, and I can hear their voices through the floorboards.
Before the world was this beautiful, in the first weeks of the pandemic, there were many anxious days when I couldn't feel myself as a solid person—whole days where I was, as was nearly everyone I spoke to, staggeringly depressed. In the span of time since, which is no time but also endless, I don’t remember who I was this January, February, early March. It’s felt like the unraveling of an older form who was outgrowing herself for years. And if that sounds dramatic, I’m allowing everyone a little drama in “these uncertain times,” as the emails repeat.
The days roll into each other, with more abundance and less of everything. There is and isn’t a future. What looms beyond the enclosure of our house, is, of course, changing all of our lives and will reach mine. For reasons of privilege and circumstance, I’m a step removed. In another three months, I don’t know if I’ll have work, if my partner will be furloughed, or far worse, if someone we love will have died. About the suffering of the world, I’ll never achieve the right balance of feeling and knowing.
When the fifth carpenter bee emerges from the nest we can’t see in the flooring, our son yells from downstairs, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” like he does when his show freezes and he panics with the remote. He’s watching weekend TV. This time, the bee can’t find a way to the window for several long minutes, though maybe it’s only one. My partner waves a piece of cardboard in its general direction, creating a rush of air I can feel on my face. When the bee finds the open window, it’s Saturday morning, 11:15, May 16th.