Yesterday I went up to clean mud and silt off the intake pipe that starts our high water system. We have a spring up on top of the mountain behind the house that we've tapped. It runs into a pipe that lies along the road all the way down the mountain and keeps our high system going--we have two, a high system and low system.
The little basin that collects the spring water serves both wildlife and our livestock. The bears, squirrels and deer that use it stir up the fine mud in it, which then coats the intake filter and eventually clogs it up. About twice a month I go up and clean off the screen and scoop out the accumulated mud around it.
Normally, when I arrive the water is crystal clear like a wishing well. But yesterday it was murky from recent stirring. I probably surprised something with the 4-wheeler when I arrived. The spring is about 40 years away and downhill from the road, so I park up there and walk down to it through a ground cover of large ferns.
Yesterday when I finished the quick cleaning and started back up to the 4-wheeler, I noticed at the side of my path a bucket-sized hole dug in the ground. It caught my attention and my first thought was "who's been up here digging?" Upon closer examination, I noticed down in the hole a massive yellow jacket nest. The bees were there working on it, but the nest had obviously been torn in half. Ahhh. A bear.
A bear undoubtedly found the nest, dug into it, and ate the larval bees. Bears actually don't attack bees for the honey; they attack them for the larva (baby bees). I looked around to make sure the bear wasn't eyeing me and headed back up the path to the 4-wheeler.
As I rode home I couldn't help but think of the struggle for survival. Everything is struggling for survival. The bees built their nest thinking they'd be safe. The bear wanders the mountain looking for a morsel here or a morsel there. Both are struggling to survive. Both use their wits, talents, creativity to try to outsmart the adversaries. Nobody gives one an advantage over the other. Some days the bear wins; some days the bees win.
What if someone decided it was unjust, or unfair, for the bear to destroy the bees' nest? What if someone decided to subsidize the bees with bear-proof habitats? The bears would be denied one of their favorite foods and the bees would proliferate perhaps to toxic proportions. I think the struggle makes each party appreciate the other more; the bees the resourcefulness and terror of the bear; the bear the cunning and camouflage of the bees. Indeed, the bees pollinate blackberries, which are another bear favorite.
The struggle has its own beauty; it's own choreography. It's both heartbreaking and affirming. In our culture today, a lot of do-goodism tries to eliminate the struggle in life. But legislating away the struggle doesn't make heroes; it makes wimps. It makes dependents.
What has the struggle taught you?
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