West Mountain Road is likely a not uncommon name for a road in North America. I’m sure Google Maps could identify a dozen or more in less than a second. The particular West Mountain Road in this story is in Idaho and runs alongside Cascade Reservoir near the town of McCall.
I was out for a walk on this road Saturday last enjoying the sight of the great, green leaves of lysichiton americanus or western skunk cabbage that covered the banks of the reservoir, the conversational ducks and Canadian geese swimming in pairs among the aged cattails, the sound of my footsteps on the dirt road, and, for once, my own thoughts. Perhaps I wasn’t thinking. Perhaps there was only my lazy, purposeless steps along the road and my senses taking in the sights, sounds and smells of my surroundings, the Monet-like impressions turning to no more than half formed thoughts. I was in the experience; I was not analyzing, assessing, criticizing or otherwise opining on the experience. It was as it was and for this reason, I was strangely at peace, had left off whatever worries normally occupy my mind.
Although there are an abundance of weekend residences in the area, I had not seen another soul in the entire time I’d been out on the road, close to an hour at that point. It was the shoulder season in the area. Winter with its snowmobiling, skiing, snow shoeing activities was gone. Summer with its boating, fishing, four wheeling was not yet arrived. Except for the distant water fowl, I witnessed no other living creature.
That is, I witnessed no other living creature until the bee. I had changed direction, was heading northward on West Mountain Road, when my attention was drawn to a dark, buzzing object headed straight for me. It was immediately recognizable as a bumble bee, the distinctive buzz and chaotic flight path giving away its identity. I stopped, intending to dive out of the way. Like a child wobbling forth on a bicycle whose training wheels have just been removed, this bee zagged and zigged forward determinedly and was upon me before I could move.
It hit me center chest and bounced off, away, then undeterred came back to try again, this time striking my right shoulder. Again it bounced off and I heard a sputtering buzz to my right, catching the strange little insect from the corner of my eye as it looped and lurched toward the water.
I laughed. The sound was strange in my ears on the quiet road but the pure delight in the encounter could evoke no other response. A bee had bumbled into me. I had been bumble bee’d. I laughed for the experience and because the experience could still be had. It felt like a success, like an accomplishment, to be able to engage directly with nature even when one was not looking for it. Like the honeybees, the humble bee-bumble bee too is facing decline. Yet I’d been privileged enough to have this humbling, bumbling brush with this aptly named bee.
My poet friend asserts that all poets must write a poem about bees. Such a poem is essential to their poet identity. I am no poet only a simple storyteller. Nonetheless, I offer up this anecdote to the oeuvre of bee literature.