The Secret Life of Bees

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking, I mean not just standing around, but standing around as though with your arms open.
–Mary Oliver

Aren’t you busy?

Isn’t that what we say, when they ask you how you are? “Good! Busy, but good.” And oh, it’s true. I am busy. That word, when I say it so many times, begins to sound a certain way–bitter on my tongue. Busy, busy, busy. Too much. Busy. Can’t do that. Busy. Tired. Things to do/to-do list. Busy, busy. And because I am busy, busy in a way that makes people laugh when I admit I must schedule them in my planner or they’re not “official.” I am busy in a way that causes the barista to raise his eyebrow at me when I order my third cappuccino of the day. I am busy in the way that some of you must be, the way that pulls you from commitment to class to work, in this fashion that strings you along until your breath is but shallow panting in an effort to keep up. I am busy in ways that demand so many hours that I feel guilty if I waste precious ones people-watching in a corner of the coffee shop–or at least I feel guilty for a bit until I remember that people-watching is a rather good way to spend time. And because when I tell people I’m busy they always respond, “Oh, I know what you mean!”, I’m assuming you do know what I mean. I’m assuming you’re busy, too.

photo 3

I was on the phone with my best friend earlier this week, and at the same time paging through my planner. “I think next week is going to be busy,” I said, breathing deeply at the mere idea of the tasks that would summon my efforts. “That’s okay,” she said. And I stopped to think–to look around the coffee shop–and I realized she was right. I just have to pause and see at my busy.

My busy is mine, see. My busy isn’t your busy–it’s special busy, busy picked out for me, busy only I can do. If I kneel down and examine my busy between my fingers, I can see it. Hanging on between the b and the u is a group of girls who meet to sing to Jesus, who expect to me show up, sure, but who I know would forgive me if I didn’t. In the middle of my busy is a magazine that I helped stitch together with my words, yes, but also with 2 a.m. emails and listening to that song over and over and a red pen and a swelling of pride. My busy calls me to walk out of a classroom with goosebumps from expanding my brain. And when I step into the warmth, with all of those brilliant words I’ve consumed already becoming a part of me, I turn to my comrade and mention the spangles of sun cast through a checkerwork of leaves: “Isn’t the world a beauty?”


I’ve been busy, sure, and I’ve been busy in the ways that leave you with dark circles under your eyes, the kind of running that leads to last-minute everything and oops-I-forgot-that panic, and a sigh and a knowing shrug when someone asks, “How are you?” I’ve been busy, like you have been, sometimes so busy that I do not notice the spangles of sun, the dancing coins themselves, that are mentioned in the heavy book I’ve been carrying around all day. Sometimes I am so busy that I climb on the bus for a reprieve and find myself riding in circles, missing stops, and panicking at the thought of missing my moments of busy.

The busy is busy, it’s demanding and jagged and sometimes stressful, like all good busy is at times. But the busy shines, or at least it does if you look at it in the right light. And let me encourage you to hold your busy up in the sun and watch it reflect Glory–may you allow yourself to get steeped in the heat of busy, and see that your busy is handing you your moments, the ones that are only for here and only for now, the ones we turn to look for when the busy calms.


So I have been busy: I have risen with the sun to share my coffee with James Joyce. I have found myself zipping across campus, as fast as I could zip, to fall, three minutes late and sweating, into a desk, my teacher literally talking to me in a language I can’t understand quite yet. I have cried on the bus because I missed my stop and I was late and I had work to do. Busy. But then: Busy: a cluster of girls laughing; a late-night trip for doughnuts and milk and dancing; a baby clutching my neck. Dozens of things to do, lists to finish and more to make, a life to be lived; a chance to breathe through the busy and notice the dancing coins.


Look and see them for yourself, Reader. They are there–they are everywhere.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.

And live
your life.




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