“A work of arte; and yet no arte of man,
Can worke, this worke, these little creatures can”
– Geffrey Whitney, 1586
(a Carpenter bee who has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2014)
(a pen and pencil drawing of a Xylocopa Virginica (carpenter bee) / Julie Cook / 2000)
When I was in high school, many many years ago, I ran track both my 9th and 10th grade years. I was never really fast nor very good but there was just something about it that held me in place for those two pivotal teenage years. Maybe it was my glue during the turbulent life of adolescents. Maybe it was a good outlet for the often troublesome ooze of a teenage girl. A mishmash of emotions, hormones and a fertile battle ground of little girl, tomboy and young lady all colliding as one. In other words, a delightful distraction and master consumer of energy and time.
If you’ve ever seen me in person you know that I am a relatively short individual. What was once 5’4.5″ is now sadly 5’3″–ode to age and osteopenia, couple that with a medium build. No svelte, long legged gazelle here, maybe more like a hearty soccer player. But one look would pretty much tell you that I was not built to be a track star let alone a long jump queen. Yet it was indeed the long jump which held my oh so keen interest.
My short little legs, with the thighs of which I so fondly refer to as God having given me tree trunks instead of thighs, were not exactly rockets which could or would propel one up and over the length of a sand pit.
I, however, was not to be deterred.
One day, before practice our coach, who happened the be the coach of the boy’s team, as I was a pre Title IX athlete–(most everything we did was with the boy’s team—from lifting weights—this sending my mother into orbit as this too was pre knowledge that it was perfectly fine for girls, feminine girls,to lift weights without turning them into a bulky testosterone filled muscle mass or some East Russian weight lifter (no offense to East Russian weight lifters) —On this particular afternoon our coach offered both teams a little motivational encouragement.
He told us the story of the bumblebee.
Supposedly it is aerodynamically improbable (he used the word impossible) for a bumblebee to fly. It seems that because of the size and weight of their bodies, along with the size, the shape and the number of beats per wing makes the concept of flight, for the lowly bumblebee, not very practical. Simply put, they are too fat, too round, too heavy along with too small of a wing, of which do not flap fast enough to lift them, keeping their rotund frame aloft–let alone fly.
But fly they do.
I took this concept to heart. I also decided that I would workout each day with the boys–the two senior boys who long jumped and triple jumped. If they jumped the boxes, I jumped the boxes. If they skipped around the track doing high leg lifts, I did the same goofy leg lifts. I’d stand at the end of the runway, having marked, counted and numbered my steps, sprinting forward, looking upward, praying my foot planted perfectly at the tip of the white jump off board and soar, hopefully, upward and outward.
Now I never broke any records or racked up a room full of trophies but I did beat out the svelte gazelle who was our girl’s team top long jumper. I did come in 2nd place at Region. And I felt as if I had accomplished something that I really never should have accomplished. . .as I was not, am not, built to soar or fly.
The lesson here is not whether it is scientifically feasible that bumblebees can or cannot fly. Nor is this the place to discuss the difference between bumblebees and their obnoxious cousins the carpenter bees— better known as the wood bee—as in eat any and all exposed wood be it a deck, rocking chair or house eve. . . digressing. . .
This is, more accurately, a lesson in believing in the improbable, the unlikely, the impossible.
This is a story about reaching beyond the expected, about never settling for the predicted, and for believing that there is always a way to do what you never thought you could do or were told you couldn’t do–despite of or in spite of any and all obstacles or limitations.
Yes, there will be have to be work. . .lots of sweat, painful effort, long tiring hours, sacrifice of self–but in the end. . . medals, trophies and records aside. . .it will be you and you alone who will know the sweet satisfaction of accomplishment—because you shouldn’t or couldn’t, but in the end, you did. . .
We all can soar.
(the carpenter bee who has seen better days trying to fly away, not very successful / Julie Cook / 2014)
(pen and pencil drawing Megabombus Pennsylvanicus (bumblebee) / Julie Cook / 2000)