Lighting A Bee Smoker

Inspiration is needed to light or reignite the Soul.

Inspiration- from Latin inspirare- literally “to breathe in”


I’m running down the road huffing, trying to maintain a regular breath. Summer officially begins in a few days and starts a new Season. I’m full to the brim, overflowing with work and family. I feel like I don’t have any room left inside. As I’m drawing these breaths in and out, I imagine I am lighting a fire or stoking a glowing ember in my Soul. I’m breathing steadily but rapidly, focusing on clearing a path to my Center.

It reminds me of lighting a bee smoker. You begin by lighting a little pine straw or some leaves and dropping it into a metal can. Attached to the can is a bellows which you ever so slowly pump to get some air flowing over the fragile flame. Then you loosely add some more straw on top, pumping the bellows a bit harder and giving air, or life, to the little fire.

Once you see flames climbing above the smoke you can drop in more leaves, but it is important to add some small twigs, a pinecone or some bark in order to form long-lasting coals that prevent the fire from going out. If I rush and just put in some straw, by the time I am at the beehives and need the smoker it usually is no longer lit.

bee smoker on box

I wish I could light up my Soul! Photo taken by Greg Rannells for SBC.

There is no rushing The Lighting of the Bee Smoker. It is a deliberate act. With careful intention and just a little patience, it will maintain its fire. The smoke from this fire not only protects you but, more importantly, allows you to work in harmony with millions of honeybees for hours and hours. During my Peace Corps experience, an old Jamaican beekeeper advised me, “If you light a smoker correctly, you can go to lunch and come back and it will still be lit” from those focused and patient original efforts. [pic of smoker]

As I am jogging down the road, I wish I could light up my Soul as easily as I can a bee smoker. It has been so long since I regularly tended my Eternal Flame. Maybe the metaphor should be more analogous to weeding an overgrown garden or clearing out a clogged spring. Really I just need to open up and shine and get back to that place, that perspective, I used to know so well.

I’m nearing the end of my run, struggling to maintain focus on my breath. I can hear the approaching cars behind me and see the cars up ahead coming toward me, another distraction. I wonder, “How on this remote island road do the few moving cars become so synchronized that they pass each other right next to me? What are the odds?”

I’m forced to run off the road onto the edge of someone’s yard and barely miss a big, blossoming magnolia tree. I’m enveloped in Magnolia grandiflora’s rich, lemony perfume. It’s as if I have just run slow-motion into a cloud of aroma, a scent that cries out, “Summer Time!” I come face-to-face with its white flowers in varying states of openness. I see the mix of flame-shaped buds, tulip-shaped, open topped flowers and some fully splayed blossoms with petals hanging in their final act. All of these white-petalled blooms are highlighted against the dark green leaves. I don’t even notice the cars as I’m lost in a mix of nostalgic associations and present-moment focus. Suddenly I find myself at the edge of my driveway.

Always use a bee smoker!

Always use a bee smoker!

Ahhh, maybe, just maybe, this is working! It sure feels right, or at least something does. I recognize the connectedness that doesn’t seem to come around like it did when I had fewer distractions. This feels like a beginning or an opening. If I can keep refocusing throughout my days, perhaps I can build up a big flaming coal in my center that will burn through all the clutter I’ve built up in my daily routine. Without the lit smoker, a day in the bees can quickly turn into an anxious, unenjoyable sting fest. But when the smoker responds when you call upon it, the relaxed peace it provides despite those millions of bees creates a harmonious atmosphere. If only I could take that harmonious feeling into the office and certainly into my home.

The grounded perspective I need to carry me though my days in the office and nights with my family should keep me centered amid the chaos. As the business owner, there can be a fine line between the grand synchronicity of a company’s moving parts and just feeling overwhelmed by the swarm of it all. I owe it to the whole company to keep my fire burning. And Lord knows my family deserves that mode of attention too. I’m going to take it step by step and guide myself ever closer to that more centered mindset. After all, what’s a new Season for if it doesn’t bring about some sort of change.



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