The Gift of Life by Judith Shaw


judith Shaw photoLife – a precious gift I so often take for granted.  Events of recent weeks have turned that blatant disregard into profound gratitude.

I began keeping bees about three years ago.  My first two years were unsuccessful.  But last year, bees I obtained from my bee mentor, Mike, were strong and vibrant.  They provided me with my first honey harvest, wintered well, and come spring were out and about pollinating the neighborhood.

Brigid's Garden, painting by Judith ShawOn a Sunday in the middle of April, I knew it was beyond time to open the hive to see what the bees needed.  As Mike was very busy with other bee issues, his work, and his life, I decided to go it alone. Though I felt a bit of trepidation since I’d never performed this task before.

While working the hive one bee got up inside my veil.  This is where my inexperience kicked in and instead of simply killing that one bee, I ended up taking off the veil.  The bees went at my head, getting into my hair.  Trying to remain calm I used my gloved hands to comb them out of my hair.  By this point I was getting stung repeatedly.  Finally I got them all off, went inside, showered and pulled out the stingers I could find.

Having been stung before I didn’t think I was in danger of anything besides a number of hurting swollen spots.  But my body responded differently to around 20 stings. Not long after my heart was racing, my face was beet red, my chest hurt and I felt my throat closing up.

I tend to think I’m invincible but at my son’s insistence I went to the ER.  They fixed me up with their drugs.

Still I am dealing with the systemic problem of the toxins in my body and feel quite strange – from first coughing, weak, nauseous, tired and a seriously non-functioning brain to now mainly a lack of brain function and being tired.

Then on the following Friday I learned that my sister had a freak bike accident on that Thursday.  She ran into a garbage can, fell and broke her hip.  She ended up in surgery with a total hip replacement. Needless to say I was very upset and worried by this.

As it turns out recovery from hip replacement is very good and most people can return to a normal life maintaining activities such as low impact sports like hiking, biking and swimming.

The Morrigan, Celtic War and Fertility Goddess, painting by Judith ShawBeing forced to slow down has made me reevaluate the way I live.  The attempt to create my income from my art has set me on a path of perpetual motion – creating a life seriously out of balance. The Celtic Dark Goddess, The Morrigan, comes to mind.   She is a complex and difficult goddess who reminds me that chaos and darkness are part of the flux and flow of life.  For something to come together, something must fall apart. This confrontation with mortality opens a door to a transformation of consciousness.

Sunflower Spiral, painting by Judith ShawThese experiences have given me new eyes with which to see the world. All seems to shimmer around me now – the beautiful turquoise sky, the crystal clear mountains, and the blossoming trees and flowers glow in sharp relief. While at the same time the sterile techno world of gains and acquisitions, the extreme separation from nature, and the frenetic speed of freeways and byways seem ever more unreal.

Any petty hurts or sadnesses I have nursed retreat to the realm of the absurd, chased away by love and gratitude for the gift of life. Tears well up in my eyes for no real reason as I feel the sweetness of life and the love of a billion hearts.

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life.  Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork.  She continues to be inspired by the Divine Feminine in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and teaches part-time.  She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website.

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Categories: Art, Bees, Earth-based spirituality, Feminism and Religion, Gift of Life, Spiritual Journey

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19 replies

  1. So glad your son Cali got you to the ER. Your experience is a good reminder that we must kill to live and that keeping bees is a kind of intervention in natural life. This is why the Native American teaching “Take only what you need” is so important. The ancient Cretans had a highly developed “medical system,” but if they had treated you they would have included teachings about learning from elders before undertaking a new task, thanking the bees for sharing their honey (and not being angry that they bit you), and thanking the plant from which the remedy for your allergic reaction came. It does not have to be medicine against nature, but we have forgotten that it can be medicine with nature. xxx

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    • Yeah all life is connected in a wonderous cycle of death and rebirth. Pretty much everything we human have been doing for thousands of years is an intervention in natural life. Seems like the bees I had have maybe become Africanized (a more aggressive type of honeybee who inadvertently came to North America and is getting into the gene pool). They have been removed and sent off to a 10 acre farm out of the city where a beekeeper much more experience than either I or Mike will determine if they are actually Africanized or not.

      Meanwhile I still love bees. They have such an amazing community and organization and create everything they need from their own bodies. Last week, Mike was called out to catch a swarm before they were poisoned and he brought them to me. So I now have another, much calmer hive buzzing around my garden.

      Not only did those bees teach me that I need to slow down and respect the strength of nature more, they also revealed a world of love and concern from many different sources – FAR being one of those. xxoo

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  2. Wonderfully open and helpful sharing, thanks Judith. We all face tough times, of course, especially as we get older, but sometimes we want to shout to the heavens, “What did I do wrong!” as if we were being singled out for punishment. Nevertheless, you’ve come up with some very fine pictures. I would love to own that exquisite beehive painting and have it next to me here on my wall, where I work daily, busy as can bee, at my computer :)

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  3. On June 17, 1992, I ran around like crazy all day, meeting potential clients, trying to get temp work, meeting my tax preparer and a publicist for lunch, meeting more people….and sucking on my asthma inhaler, like, every thirty minutes. I knew I was worn out, but what else could I do?

    I was teaching a class in my living room that year. Practicing the Presence of the Goddess. Which practice I was obviously ignoring. Only two students showed up that night, one of them a nurse. I finally gave up and admitted I couldn’t breathe. They promptly took me to the ER. We got there just in time.The last thing I saw was the glass doors to the ER. The next thing I saw….I was floating around just under the ceiling of the ER. Finally, I was down on the bed and nurses and doctors were standing around me. I was in the hospital for a week.

    My lesson? Slow down! Breathe! Let Her guide me and pay attention to what She says. My life is lots slower and sweeter nowadays.

    When I wrote about this episode for SageWoman Magazine a few years ago, I also Found Puffy the Goddess of Oxygen:

    So shy and modest as to be nearly invisible, Puffy is such an ancient elemental goddess that she’s gone round from croneity to revirginity more times than anyone can count. Born in the prime slime gardens of the Paleoproterozoic Era of our planet, Puffy immediately set to work teaching the place to breathe. When the first gang of stubby-legged critters crawled into her seaside garden to trade their gills for lungs, she welcomed them and promptly set them to work harvesting chalcogens, taming bacteria, and feeding phytoplankton.

    Like a certain other Divine Gardener, Puffy spoke. “Let there be air,” She said, and the air rose and the water fell. “Let us all breathe,” She said. And She saw that breathing was good. Walking in the cool afternoon in Her garden, She next taught the growing green folk to photosynthesize and the ironic folk to oxydize.

    Puffy is best known of course for Her great charitable works. It was She who emboldened the Ion Sisters to invent the air purifier. It was She who encouraged Fandango, Goddess of Air Conditioning, in Her frigerative work. And it was She who inspired the phlogistical labors of Michał Sędziwój, Carl Wilhelm Scheele, and Joseph Priestly, “discoverers” of oxygen.

    Today we can recognize Puffy’s temples by the blooming bronchi of their great airy gardens. Who has not seen the familiar cylindrical silver fruit hanging from the long, hollow stems of the aspiratory trees? Who has not met Puffy’s priestesses, the highly purified Sylphs who sweep invading particles out of the temple precinct? Who has not waved a magic inhaler wand and taken a deep, easy breath? Who has not inhaled the calming aroma of Her smokeless incense (also known as aromatherapy)? “You who are heavy laden and all choked up,” Puffy entreats us, “come unto Me, and I will respire you.”

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  4. I forgot to say- Judith please be sure to watch for infection. You may not have gotten all the stingers out, so if you notice unusual swelling (in about 7-10 days) go back to the doctor and get treated. Glad you are doing ok, a very scary experience. Very glad your son there to administer good advice and take care of his mom.

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  5. I think of the saying: “Busy as a bee”, and how those bees caused you to pause and re-centre. Glad you got to the hospital too!

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  6. I love this post, thank your for sharing, Judith.

    I’ve had my own encounter with the depths, brought on by my own hubris as an herbalist thinking I could blithely get off an antidepressant I’d been on for many years.

    I didn’t know to what depths I would plunge, or how I would be cracked open to allow for the changes for which I had been praying. I am a very different person now, immensely grateful for who I am, and chastened by all it has taken to get here.

    Life has many ways of getting our attention and directing us to what we have asked for. I’m glad you paid attention to what was presented to you so that you don’t have to get that lesson again. Glad also that your son got you to go the ER. When our bodies are in shock we don’t have the best judgement.

    I heard recently that the sting of the Africanized bee is good for healing something, I think it was Lyme disease, but don’t remember. It seems that invasive insect species, as also invasive plant species, may be coming over to off their gifts of healing, it we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

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    • Iris, Glad to hear that you have re-emerged from the depths to a new and better way of being. It always amazes me how if we allows ourselves to truly experience the dark, difficult moments in life (which we would prefer to avoid) that we then emerge like butterflies longing to kiss the sun.

      I know that there is a healing practice that uses bee stingers to cure – “apitherapy”, but I never heard that the Africanized bees were special for that – interesting.

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