I have to admit, this isn’t an easy time for me. As a small business owner, an extrovert, and a lover of people, to stay inside (as much as I can when I am not working outside safely) and to hear what feels like constant bad news for the global community and the economy is creating stress in a way I have never experienced before. Even though I pride myself on keeping my cool, and, more so, on seeing the bright side, it has been a dark time for me (and for all of us). But of course, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and so through the mess of this dark cloud, I focus on the hope that is being pushed out into the world by all of its best and strongest people. Can’t you see it? It’s coming out of all the windows of the houses and apartments where we are currently living in virtual quarantine. And where does that kind of real, true power come from? It’s an act of toughness and strength, it comes from being resilient at all costs.
Resilience has been a word that has floated around for a while now in a lot of self-help, in a lot of talk about mindfulness, in contemporary psychology. And to be really honest, until now, I have been lucky enough to not really think about what true resilience means or entails. I kind of knew that I was a gusty person, and a hard worker, but really powerful resilience needs those things, but it also needs more; that is something I am learning.
Resilience is not just strength but the ability to STAY strong. It is not a fleeting feeling based on your ego running wild propelling you to something; it’s a much more humble, long-standing strength, and it’s the type that needs everyday attention. It is our resilience that is about to be tested, and many of us – most of us – are really going to build it if we don’t already feel like we have it.
So, what does resilience mean for us all right now? I think it functions on many levels. We need to come together to combat this situation on a global level; but, due to the isolating circumstances we are in, we need it on a much closer, personal level too. We need to tell ourselves each day, probably many times a day, that we are doing the best we can; that things will return to a new and better kind of normal; that this time is a just a moment in time and it will make us stronger, happier, more caring, healthier. I am going to do my best to keep the spirits of my community high. Stay strong and stay kind.
An Online Moment
We thought we were living it. We thought, and we talked about, how the internet had taken over; how we were existing online; how social media was our new way of life, and something we should question and perhaps even boycott. We have all loved and struggled with the technology that has become so much a part of how we communicate and how we live. We have all felt the anxiety it can create, felt the dopamine hit, felt the ease, the competition, the connections it allows us. But never before has it been like this. Never before have we been in a situation where our online lives are our last connection to each other, to the information we need to survive this utterly bizarre and complicated contemporary moment. Never before have we needed it so much for our incomes and livelihoods. Online, to me, feels more necessary than ever.
With that thought in mind, I have been spending nights lying in bed, trying to sleep, thinking about what “being online” actually now means. Before COVID 19, “being” online didn’t really mean that much, but now it feels like we are actually existing, actually being, and living our lives, in that ethereal, unreal space of the internet. And personally, I want that to feel good. For me, the internet, especially social media, has ALWAYS been a space I endeavoured to fill with positivity, but now more than ever – as “online” becomes our new playground, our new home, our new avenue to each other – I am excited and interested at how we can all use this space to help one another through this pandemic.
As well as ways to keep sane and happy, I am really committed to thinking of new ways that small businesses can survive, via the internet, during this time; for me, and many of my friends who run similar-sized operations (AKA, love projects), what happens online now is what keeps me and my family afloat; what helps me ensure my employees are okay; what means that my business survives when we come out of this. So, in the biggest “online moment” so far, let’s do everything we can to listen to the pleas and needs of small businesspeople everywhere, and let’s make smart and conscious consumer decisions so that we live as best we can, from our homes if necessary, with the products, wares, food, supplies and services of local people. This will be an ongoing focus of mine during this time.
Essential Quarantine Supplies #1: Honey
So, it’s happening, and I am still in shock. I am pretty positive the majority of you didn’t see this coming either, with the country in relative lockdown, businesses closing their doors, and an eerie quiet in our biggest cities. Those of us who can are following our civic responsibility to not pass on Corona virus to society’s most vulnerable by staying at home, while we all wait for medical professionals to develop a vaccine. So, what does it look like behind closed doors? Potted plants are providing a miniature nature hit. Kids are being taught by their parents. Pyjamas are worn to the home ‘office’. TV shows are binged. New recipes are being created by everyday chefs. DIY projects are finally taking shape. Vege patches are getting sown. And the whole time, the internet is getting the work out of its life! The majority of Australians are bunkering down for the long haul, getting prepared for a stay-at-home existence; making the most of what can be done during this utterly bizarre moment in time.
For me, I am still out there working (safely, of course) as bees don’t rest! But, when I am not helping out a colony, I too am at home, not socialising face-to-face, or eating out, or interacting with the world in my usual way. Meanwhile, the bees are having similar thoughts. While they are definitely still out and about, and much more than we are, they are getting themselves ready for some serious time in the hive as they settle in for the cooler months. For a bee, lockdown essentials include some delicious Ben’s Bees Bee Fondant – a supersaturated sugar solution (but I will be talking more about that in a later post). Which makes me curious: what are your quarantine essentials?
One thing I know is that if you are going into self-isolation, you really can’t do it without delicious local honey. You see, honey is a multi-faceted gem. It’s sweet taste and luxurious consistency makes it the perfect natural sugar substitute with a lower GI. It is specific to where it was made, often picking up hints of flowers from that area. It has a rich antioxidant content, including phenols, enzymes and compounds such as flavonoids and organic acids; antioxidants slow down and expel harmful molecules that can damage cells, cause aging, increase heart disease, strokes and cancer, and we all need a dose of that right now! What’s more, honey’s antiseptic quality makes it a wonderful healer of wounds, not to mention an ingredient in a multitude of home-made skin care products, like face masks. For this lockdown, I recommend good ol’ Ben’s Bees Raw Honey for everyday toast, tea and cereal. For that end of the week, in-house cheese platter that we all deserve under these wacky circumstances, how about Ben’s Bees Gourmet honey varieties, in Truffle, Macadamia or Vanilla Bean. And if you’re looking for something with unique and powerful health benefits, I have a range of Manuka and Leatherwood honey available too. For all your honey needs, Ben the Bee Man has you covered. Sweet honey kisses x
Essential Quarantine Supplies #2: Beeswax Wraps
So, it’s happening. We are living this crazy, indoor, sci-fi-like existence for now, and perhaps some months to come. Those of us who can are enacting our civic responsibility to not pass on Corona virus to society’s most vulnerable by staying at home, while we all wait for medical professionals to develop a vaccine. We are turning up to the ‘office’ (AKA kitchen table) in our PJs, or our undies (it’s not just me, right?). Our kids are learning some pretty makeshift new curriculum as parents become house-school teachers. And, if you were lucky enough to get some groceries while they were still around, you are probably getting more acquainted with the kitchen than perhaps ever before! The times they have a-changed, and we have to be quick to adapt, otherwise, we will be living toilet-paper-free, a little hungry, and very lost.
So, to help with this transition into lockdown life, I’ve been stockpiling lots of goodies for my community, and will be sharing tips for filling your isolated world with bee-love. Honey, of course, is a must in any pantry, especially during this time, as it’s not only delicious, but nutritious, and medicinal! Beeswax candles create a beautiful, natural ambience in your home when you kind of need it the most, because, let’s be honest, these times need a little joy! But today, I am here to tell you about why beeswax wraps are going to save the environment from a home-life of plastic nasties.
As many of you know, I usually run regular community workshops on making beeswax wraps, and let me tell you, they are so popular! My classes are frequently at maximum capacity, as these beauties are easy to make and good for the environment. However, if you don’t exactly know how, and you need some in time for your newly quarantined home, Ben’s Bees Beeswax Wraps are inexpensive and available on my online store; they have gorgeous printed fabric and are made to last, not throw away. Simply use them as you would Glad Wrap on foods, except raw meat, and make your refrigerator a plastic-free zone! They wash up well for disposable-free living. They are also great to wrap your sandwiches if you are still like me and heading off to work, and, of course, will stay useful once life returns to normal and we can all venture out once again.
Let’s do something good with our time in lockdown. Let’s make the environment a healthier place, one step at a time.
The Good That Comes
Since lockdown life began, I have been thinking about what can come from this time. Looking back, the world has really copped a flogging of a certain kind, perhaps for the past ten or more years, as far as I’m concerned. I feel that some of those problems have been amplified by the media in a way that has caused havoc on our mental health, with anxiety levels skyrocketing as we live in fear of what may be. Then there have been other situations where the sheer force of disaster has rattled and ruined everything in its sight; the bushfires in Australia were the perfect example, and as a people that are still battling with that time on a daily basis, and still recalling that feeling over the Christmas and New Year period that was rightfully terrifying, the onset of Corona is really another lashing.
Now, of course, I have come here to be positive, and I am; there is a way to look forward. And with the vast population doing what they can to stop this virus in its tracks, the better off Australians will be; as we have seen from examples overseas, this really is the only way to take the pressure off healthcare systems that are struggling to cope with this disaster. But this time has shaken even the most unshakeable of folk, including myself. And now, as we lock down and communicate from our homes, big or small, I am thinking about the good that can come from this experience. What will this time do to the way we think? How will it affect the environment? Our livelihoods? What will we value when we emerge and come back together?
In the past, I have spoken a lot about the anxiety that I have sensed in people, some of which can be pinned to a too-much, all-of-the-time lifestyle and drive. To be honest, I can be a bit like this myself! I LOVE people, I LOVE action and working and being out and about. I LOVE seeing the progress small businesses can make and I LOVE to be part of the goings-on in the world. So, for me, this is a very confronting moment: I am a kid that can’t sit still (but has to, somehow). A friend passed a book onto me by a writer called Rebecca Solnit called ‘Hope in the Dark’. Generally, it’s about important political acts in historical times that seemed overwhelmed by political, environmental and social gloom. There is a quote that reads: “Things don’t always change for the better, but they change, and we can play a role in that change if we act. Which is where hope comes in, and memory, the collective memory we call history.” I keep thinking about this, and wondering what will be when we come out the other side? How will we have done our best to somehow shape the change that is inevitable from this experience, despite our power feeling very minimal at the moment. My hopes are that people have reconnected with what matters – with family (whoever that is to you), with simple tasks, with the indulgence and gorgeousness of home. I hope the environment has had time to heal, for us and of course for the bees! I hope that we come closer to one another via our isolation. Sending hopeful vibes.
The Expanded Colony
I have always believed that an individual can move small mountains if they set their mind to something, but that it is a group of people, a community, that really has the power to make great things happen. I look back on some notes I made about what the idea of community meant to me, from over a year ago now; I look back and it all rings true, however, in this time, I am thinking of how that community I have built can operate and continue to thrive from our isolated worlds.
My community consists of bee people—keepers and enthusiasts and honey-lovers—but also farmers, shop owners, craftspeople, hospitality workers, gardeners, tradespeople, parents, just to name a few. My community has grown since I have travelled more, opened myself up, developed my business and deepened my passion for bees, the environment, food and wellbeing. I am happy that the things I love are really down-to-earth, and that draws people with a similar energy and set of values.
Bees too love one another, so much so that they have been defined as a superorganism. They rely on an important social structure that is highly organised, self-replenishing and unique. The colony itself—taking up residence in the hive and journeying for food and water—consists of three types of honeybee: queen bees (egg producers), worker bees (infertile females), and drones (males whose purpose is to find and mate with a queen bee). These three castes form an integral system, or superorganism, where different bees take on different roles for the colony to thrive. There are a million processes that these clever insects have developed to maintain their existence, and all of them rely on the other bees in the hive. Community makes it all happen. Without community, there is nothing, zip, and zilch.
There has never been a time when I have realised just how important my community is. And there has never been a time when I am more reliant on those connections – for the future of my business, but also for my happiness. I understand, of course, that we are all feeling this way, and I too am continuing to give back to the people that have supported me for so long. A lone island can get a lot done, as workaholics like myself often do, but there is no doubt that they need other people to enrich their lives and make the world a full and inspiring place. Let’s do that from our living rooms if we have to; let’s continue to expand our communities via the internet, using it for what it is good for; let’s make sure we all get through this together, do as bees do, and keep the colony happy and fed. Much gratitude to you x