Living Like a Pollinator

bumblebee in lavender copyresized

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM    July 12, 2020

We seem to follow the same start-of-the-day schedule, the bumblebee and I. These days I’m working virtually from home, so in the cool of the early morning, I head down the stairs and out to the patio to water my pots of young mint and basil and lavender. Then on to the large container that is home to Chatty Cathy, a yellow hibiscus who lives up to her name. From there, down the steps to a tiny garden patch bursting with black-eyed Susan, marigold, echinacea, and a single lavender plant that is the lone survivor of a brutal winter. Though the plant is listed as a perennial, this is the first time I’ve ever had lavender return, and it’s celebrating this triumph by sending up purple spikes continuously.

A lone fuzzy bumblebee makes his morning rounds with me. Who can tell if it’s the same bee at the same time each day? I’ve read that bumblebees can actually recognize faces so I like to imagine he gives me a quick sideways glance with his compound eyes,  remembers that I’m a place of both safety and welcome, and then enters into the work of the day as we move side by side. The bumblebee is as much in love with the lavender as I am and seems to spend its entire morning being present to one purple blossom after another. One time, in fact, he embraced a single bud and remained motionless for so long that I thought the bee had died. Not a bad way to go, inhaling beauty, I thought. But it seems the bee was simply intoxicated, made drunk by flowery extravagance, and eventually had his surfeit of bliss and moved on.bee in other lavenderIMG_2015 copy

As I watch my bumblebee neighbor flitting from flower to flower, I’m reminded that we’ve both been put into this world for essentially the same purpose: to be a pollinator. Pollinators are mutually beneficial to other species as well as their own. As a pollinator, I desire to move from relationship to relationship, from person to person, from my own species to other families, all the while leaving a trail of compassion and kindness and care and beauty in my wake. I hope that after any one of these encounters, the person or animal or flower that has just been in my company will exclaim as Mary Oliver did after drinking cold water At Blackwater Pond,

“oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?”

What indeed? I suspect Paulann Petersen, Oregon’s poet laureate, must have been secretly observing the activity in my garden and predicting where the dialogue between the bumblebee and me would inevitably lead. Her poem, “A Sacrament,” paints such a charming picture and calls us to a heightened awareness of our place in this world:

“Become that high priest,
the bee. Drone your way
from one fragrant
temple to another, nosing
into each altar. Drink
what’s divine—
and while you’re there,
let some of the sacred
cling to your limbs.
Wherever you go
leave a small trail
of its golden crumbs.

In your wake
the world unfolds
its rapture, the fruit
of its blooming.
Rooms in your house
fill with that sweetness
your body
both makes and eats.”

bumblebee2 in lavender copyToday, may we drink of what’s divine. And at day’s end, may we notice that some of the sacred is indeed clinging to us, leaving a trail of golden crumbs in all the places our feet or our hearts have taken us.


Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
If your day is just beginning, image yourself as a pollinator leaving traces of the Holy wherever your day takes you.
If you’re near day’s end, reflect on the people and places you’ve encountered. Where and how have you been a pollinator?
Sit with these images and remembrances.
Invite the Holy One to cling to you as you enter the day or prepare for your rest.

Please hold in your prayer two Zoom mini-retreats I’ll be leading: 

July 17, “Discovering Abundance,” Our Lady of Grace Spiritual Center, Manhasset, NY, or (516) 627-9255 

July 20, “Breathing Our Prayer,” The Church of St. Gregory, Clarks Green, PA 

Please also send good energy my way as I’m in the process of converting my 6-day guided retreats to recorded Zoom presentation formats, a time consuming but necessary effort. Thank you! 

The safety and well-being of the Mining the Now community and our world continue to be in my heart and prayer. Please stay safe and well these days.

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4 thoughts on “Living Like a Pollinator”

  1. You are indeed a harbinger of peace and beauty, Chris. Thank you for this lovely and prayerful interlude this morning. Love the imagery of your morning routine as you tend herbs and flowers in kinship with the bumblebee. Love and prayers for all you do…

  2. Sr. Chris, you continue to shine in your words and they upon us. I was just so immersed in the story of the bumblebee and the lavender –you brought me to your garden and I envisioned this beautiful creature affixed and intoxicated with the purple flower. Now, I have to buy that plant and hope his cousin will visit. Thank you and God bless you, and your ministry. I hope your guided meditations recording goes smoothly as I would love to listen and share with others –become a pollinator too.

  3. Christine, I have experienced the same experience of watching a bee on its pollination trip when I was on retreat Near the pond area. It is beautiful and a good reflection. Thank you

  4. This is so beautifully written ‘Living Like A Pollinator’. Our son is in the southern part of France and toured Lavender fields just yesterday. He said when the wind blows the fragrant smells so refreshing. I’m intriguer how he just sent pictures of the lavender fields yesterday and then today I read your story. Holy Spirit working through us ! Enjoy your mornings. Peace !

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