Friday, October 23, 2009

The lost bee

This is a story with a long pre-amble. Please bear with me. The pay-off begins below the bee picture.

One of the greatest benefits of growing up in two countries as I have done, having spent exactly one half of my life in England and the other half in California, is that one's perspective is uniquely shifted depending on which country you're viewing t'other from. Each has its high and low points. Los Angeles is my home, but unless I visit England every year or so I get very, very homesick, and very skewed in my expectations. It is classic ex-pat behaviour, dully enough. One builds up an image of one's homeland that is more like the green and pleasant one of Jerusalem fame, than the current version, all smarting from too much chicken tikka masala-style obesity, the BNP & the failure of child care authorities in the London borough of Haringey.

As I drove my 14 year old daughter to the first parent/teacher conference of high school this very morning, half-numbed by lack of sleep layered on top of jetlag, she posed this question:

"Do you love Los Angeles?"

"I feel ambivalent about LA" I replied as truthfully as I could. "There are some things I love about it and some things I could do without."

Driving through Century City hours after re-entry, the relentless sun high in the sky, cars honking at each other, the streets devoid of pedestrians, the dry air catching in my throat as I go to swear at other drivers (oh, they're all idiots but me, of course), all I can think about is the glorious, cool days of English autumn and the way my brother always sees the best in everyone. He is a kind man. A really kind man. He cares deeply about people and chooses to see the good. This is how I used to be. I know I was this way once. But years of punching and being battered in Hollywood has knocked it out of me. I dislike this quality most in myself. It's called, quite plainly, cynicism and when I was in England, it went away for just long enough for me to notice.

Seeing the good also involves believing in goodness and trusting that things will turn out the right way.

This is a silly story, really, but one that has stayed with me and sometimes when things stay with us perhaps we should pay attention to them.

a little golden bee rather like this one

On Saturday afternoon, in Scotland, my brother and his wife, J went to a wedding so the children and I amused ourselves playing football on the lawn, rolling around on the grass with the dogs and finally having a dog grooming contest. The Labradors rolled their eyes at us but were good-natured as only Labs can be and sat quietly and patiently as we pulled combs through their thick coats and flicked great handfuls of the furry stuff into the breeze.

Later, when D&J had come home, full of wedding joy, I happened to touch my ear and realize that my earring had fallen out. It was a tiny gold bee, earrings the Maharishi had given me when we first got married. Of course, with a name like Bumble, people are very generous with their bee gifts -- cushions, plates, cups, paper, pictures -- but these earrings are my very favorite. They have the tiniest ruby eyes. Somehow, oddly, the butterfly back was still stuck to my ear, but the bee itself was nowhere to be found. We looked in the sofa, behind the sofa, under the sofa cushions, under the sofa, on the carpet, but nothing.

"Don't worry" said J, my sister-in-law "We'll find it. Let's retrace your steps."
"I was playing outside with the children. We'll never find it out there" I said, "Oh, please don't worry."
"Nonsense" said J, "of course we'll find it. You must have faith!"

I rolled my eyes like the Labrador at her and followed her outside where it was still just light, the sky glowing pink and blue. Between the front door and the steps to the lawn is a wide piece of gravelly driveway. I walked across the little pebbles and looked down halfheartedly and then followed J down the steps where we brushed the dogs. The lawn is huge and stretches out to the field where the horses were grazing. J marched ahead, absolutely confident in her belief that we will find the earring. I'm laughing, of course, and I tease her.
"It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack, J. It's never going to happen."
She tuts at me "Oh ye of little faith." (She actually says this.)
So to humour her, and only to humour her, I put one foot on the grass, which, I might add, hasn't been mown for a month or more, and gaze at the little green blades, strewn with dog hair. And then my other foot. I shuffle about a bit wondering how long I have to keep up this charade. The dogs are being good sports too. They're sniffing about, being waggy, enjoying the game.

And then I see it. It's as big as my thumb nail and lying on its back, its legs in the air. It's my gold bee.

My sister-in-law -- who really should have been a missionary, she's so inspiring -- is not in the slightest bit shocked. She looks at me, smiles, and says "I told you so."

my lovely bro, D & his gorgeous wife, J (in Queen of the Nile headgear)


So Lovely said...

Such a lovely story and there's such a message. I too suffer from the the ex-pat "stuff". Just be very kind to yourself over the next couple of days - jet lag is the worst and makes one feel hopeless at times. I am trying to be very inspirational in this comment but can't find the words so will finish by saying "this to shall pass" and hopefully you will find joy in the smoggy sunsets again. xxx

Tania Kindersley said...

I adore this story. I'm not sure why, but it feels like a little amulet of hope.

Although you know I can wax more lyrical about Scotland than anyone, I think today even I might swap it for Los Angeles. Dreich does not begin to cover it. It is the sixth day of rain, the sky looks like old washing up, everything is sodden, the burn has burst its banks is lying, muddy and truculent, over the rough grass, and all the magnificent autumn leaves are in sad wet clumps on the ground. My neighbour walks past. 'Another dirty day,' he says.


Susan Champlin said...

This is exquisite. I was thinking about you today—about what a gift you are. You have no idea how you've expanded my world, and it's because of your genuine enthusiasms and your spontaneous, pure spirit of generosity. I know we haven't known each other long or well, but "cynical" is the last word I would use to describe you. (Feeling grim about hot, traffic-riddled Los Angeles is simple realism, in my book!) I'm very glad you're here.

Liberty London Girl said...

A good reminder to forge on through.

And also so with you re the ex pat dilemma. LLGxx

CampusLady said...

Well you know I am with you on the homesick thing, and I never like LA at all! You have managed to avoid cynicism so far as I can tell - and radiate optimism and encouragement to those of us luck enough to have you as a friend. Lovely story about your bee - your sister in law sounds like a doll!

Miss Whistle said...

What wonderful comments. Thank you so much, dear readers.

So Lovely -- I feel enormously refreshed today after finally sleeping a full 9 hours, which is a record for me. I'm glad we're fighting side by side!

Tania -- Thank you so much for this. I have heard that Scotland has been particularly miserable lately and I do sympathize. My few days there was particularly bright and for that, I am enormously grateful. You are, of course, welcome in LA any time you like. x

Susan -- That made my day. Thank you.

LLG -- Forge on through (as you pointed out in your lovely blogpost about seizing the moment). x

Campus Lady -- We must stick together in our little west coast outpost of Englishness. Thank you for love and encouragement.


Miss W x

shayma said...

oh bumble! what a wonderful story. i am so happy you found your husband's gift, your sister-in-law has a wonderful spirit. i know how it feels to find smthg you have lost, which means so much to you, be it a piece of jewelry, a book even costume jewelry. this is a lovely story. xx