Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Living at the Beehive

I'm not sure what I was expecting.

I arrived in Machias after a long bus ride.  I went from sunny Portland on the seacoast to Bangor (which is where Stephen King lives FYI) It's a strange non town from what I could see, straddling a freeway with a Wendy's diner next door from the bus station.  The only people at the station with me were an Amish family and a really friendly dog that didn't seem to belong to anyone.  It hung around outside watching people as they came and went.

From Bangor I got on the West Bus,  a small rickety white bus that journeyed further into the North.  I was the only one on board and the driver was chatty. I was relieved and delighted that he'd heard of the Bee Design Collective as after my journey North I was beginning to worry about how remote the landscape was getting.  Main roads made way for dirt tracks, and small little houses and farms became a rare sight.

He told me that the Bees marched to their own tune. Everyone knew them around here but they don't do things that normal folk do.  He advised me that if I was looking to see normal Americans,  the Bees ain't that (direct quote)

The bus was so rickety and the roads were so hard that is was hard to hear what the driver was saying. From what I heard though, he was backing up what I knew of them. They're a self mobilising collective,  educating about the rejection of corporate colonialism and militarisation in the Americas.

Every year the Beehive organise the Blackfly Ball, an epic celebration of Machias and the work the bees do. People flock to the hive from all around to listen to music, meet like minded people and support the bees.

The Beehive house itself once belonged to an old trader of the town back in Victorian days.  It's a jumble of odd bits and pieces, useful pieces of plywood, a sprawling kitchen full of handmade gadgets and mixed crockery.  Everywhere you look there are beds. There's a bed in the tree house and in the old tour bus. The library has a old sagging sofa surrounded by piles of books and instruments and the studio is full to bursting with Mesoamerica (epic illustration that took 10 years to create depicting resistance to a neoliberal model of development)  prints and original sketches.

The Bees themselves are always changing, coming and going. There's Muppet, the organiser who knows where everything is and how to get it. He is a calming,  eccentric presence and contrasts with the passionate and thoughtful Mandy who is another core Bee. She and the lovely Emma teach the migrant kids at the Blueberry school while their parents work the blueberry harvest, and they help run the house with a calm, coordinated presence.

Althea is funny and kind,  Ryan from California is larger than life and passionate.  Steph is welcoming and includes everyone, Sofia from Sweden is a fellow illustrator (and my roommate) is devoted to mindfulness and bring supportive and Pam from Florida operates on another level,  serene and caring. She reminds me a bit of a jedi master.

There's a trail that leads out of Machias called the Sunrise Trail.  You can walk for miles and the other day I did just that. I went for 10 miles without seeing another human soul. It was 3pm and the day was a scorcher. I had just turned back to walk back to Machias and I was listening to my audiobook when I saw something moving out on the trail before me. It was a bear cub. My insides turned to ice. 

I have just finished rereading Bill Bryson's "Into The Woods" and in this wonderful book he discusses contradicting advice he had read on bear attacks.  Basically they all say different things but the one thing they all say is that if you see a baby bear,  shit yourself and die because you're toast.  The mother will be around and there's nothing you can do about it. I was not surprised at how scared I was, my heart rate went up and my breath became quick and panicked.  The baby bear  watched me and then walked off the trail into the woods. I made a made dash and sprinted down the trail. I must have run flat out for about 7 minutes.  The trail is an old railway so you can see for miles down the track. No sign of bear. Thank Fuck for that.

Next blog -  I'll be looking at the crazy detail of the Mesoamerica poster, the art of harvesting nori at the beach and the Beehive prepares for the Blackfly Ball!

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