Friday, December 12, 2008

The Life Lessons of a Squished Bee

I recently witnessed a magical moment. It all started at a burrito shop a shoeless hippie's throw from where the sand meets the water meets the sky. The California burrito sitting in front of me oozed with something frightening looking, very unhealthy, and ungodly delicious. Neon signs begged passer-by to stop into the tattoo shop above where I sat- one of perhaps only twelve tattoo parlors on the four-block stretch of the Ocean Beach street.

Newport street is replete with one-stop tourist havens filled with a whole lot of crap that nobody needs, filthy-cozy dive bars, sweatshop-supplied clothing stores, incense-burning "water pipe" glass stores, and surfboard and bicycle rental shops. As I contemplated my burrito, many locals (also known as Obecians), ambled past barefoot and toting long-boards (street and water versions), smoking cigarettes, or played hacky- sack and handmade drums by the stone wall separating sidewalk from beach. The locals are generally indistinguishable from the transient masses who migrate to San Diego in search of a warmer, better, hipper place in which to carry on their various degrees of chosen or forced nomadic lifestyles and destitution. I dig it in OB because the people watching is ripe, and I could pass a few happy lifetimes sitting back and inventing lives for all those randoms who pass across my view. And the drum beats are nice.

The vast majority of people found in OB are clad in the most casual of clothes, from swimsuits to jeans and t-shirts. Girls don't get all squeezed in and slutted up to go to the bars here. That's what PB is for. OB is the pinnacle of laid-back beach life. It is what it is and it is chill. To the max. Brah.

As I'm sitting trying to figure out how to eat my uber-sloppy burrito, a very well-dressed Mexican family of three walked up to the shop's window to order dinner. The sun was long gone at this point, having dropped dramatically below the horizon several hours earlier. The father was standing in the threshold of the tiny shop, gathering napkins and hot sauce containers for their meal. As an unabashed watcher of all people, I was checking out this handsome man, so wonderfully out of place in his clean navy suit and tie, little slick-haired toddler and red-dressed-and lipsticked wife in tow, awaiting their napkins and food at one of the outdoor picnic tables.

As I was taking in the image of this man and his super-shine shoes, I noticed a fuzzy little bee begin to laboriously make it's way up the heel of his fancy shoe. In the best Spanish I could muster (thank god I remembered the word for bee), I tapped him on the arm and said (I think), "excuse me, there is a bee on your shoe." He looked at me for a moment longer than my comfort zone would have it, then looked down cool as a cucumber and very gently brushed the bee off his shoe, and went to join his family. For reasons I can't explain I almost blushed; I felt as though I had done something wrong, revealed some personal weakness or moral failing to him.

Back to my burrito, which was slowly diminishing. A while later the man's little boy was up and about, burning off some steam while his parents ate. He eventually happened upon the same little bee his father had so gently handled, which had since moved a couple of feet out onto the stone patio, still within harms way of the giant feet making their ways to-and-fro. After contemplating the tiny, flightless, winter-dulled creature for about a minute, the little boy picked up his foot and decidedly gave the bee a good stomp.

His dad was by his side, it seemed, before his foot had even reached the ground. Taking his wrist firmly and pulling him away with a light jerk of his arm, he offered a very firm and repeated, "no! no, no, no!" The little boy was deposited on the bench next to his mother.

Dad returned to the bee as son sat looking more than a little chagrined next to his mother, who seemed to have missed the whole thing. The dad crouched down, pulling up his fancy-pant legs to get down low enough, and tenderly scooped the still-alive (but visibly injured) bee into his hand. He then walked over to a shrub bordering the patio and set the bee oh-so-carefully on a broad leaf. His son watched every inch of the process with eyes and mouth as wide as the sky.

Once the little bee was safely in place, Dad came over and grabbed his son by the wrist again, more gently this time, and lead him over to where he had placed the bee. There he crouched with his little son, explaining to him in low tones about the sanctity of life, and respect for life, and love for creatures, and responsibility, and what it means to be really big and to be gentle and kind to something very small. He spent a long time talking to his son, asking him questions and ensuring that he understood how important it all was. The dad then took the bee off of the leaf and held it out on his outstretched palm for his son to look at, to point out the damaged wing and to explain that the bee would no longer be able to fly, to gather pollen, to go home to his family or hive. He replaced the bee and patted his son on the head as he stood up, saying very clearly, "te amo."

This scene almost brought me to tears. I don't know that I've ever before witnessed such a beautiful example of being a good human, a gentle man, and most importantly, a great father. In a world in which people so often disregard the little things that are so important in the long run, and set poor examples for the young humans in their lives with their harsh actions and immature choices, here was a man taking the time to explain to this precious little person of his the importance of respecting a tiny little bee. Pure Magic.


Anonymous said...

Amanda, a wonderful story.

Brilliantly written, you transported me all the way from China to this burrito shop.

If it's possible, your writing may be more impressive than your photography. I am blown away.

Amanda said...

Michael, thank you for taking the time to visit and for your blush-inducing compliment. Truth be told, writing is my first love, with photography following close on its heels.

Anonymous said...

I am officially ready for you to post something new. Just sayin'...