Critters that watch over us

William Wadsen Jr. artwork

William Wadsen Jr. artwork

Bee Keeper

You can take the ski lift to the top of Mount Washington in the summer-time on Vancouver Island.

A quick trip aboard a jump-seat places you at 5200 feet (1590 meters) and presto: you can see 360-degrees in all directions.

Views of the archipelago carved out centuries ago by shifts in the granite and mud make you feel big and small at the same time.

You can see islands and forests and beaches and boats and small towns dotting the landscape.

On a warm and sunny summer afternoon we hiked down about a thousand feet—some parts carefully, others at a jaunt—picking fat mountain blueberries along the way.

My two companions pointed out a silhouette on a rock, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a teddy bear in profile, frozen while we tiptoed past.

Turns out the teddy bear is a marmot (Marmota vancouverensis), a now-protected critter native to the island, whose populations dwindled as a result of two-legged and four-legged predators and habitat changes.

Once we were out of the marmot’s view, the critter let out a whistle, a shrill cheep that thanked us for leaving.

As we legged it, a bee buzzed around my torso.

Although bathed in sunblock that morning I neglected the insecticide and the bee decided to keep me company.

I dipped in between purple fireweed (Epilobium augustifolium) and Douglas fir, and just when I thought the bee left me, it returned, buzzing around my shoulder.

My annoyance turned to acceptance as I realized the bee would keep me company for the entire journey down the mountain.

And it did.

No matter my pace, no matter the branches that required a scramble, the bee skirted me.

We stayed together, me on my toes, the bee on wing, until we reached the rocky bottom.

“Is the bee still there?” my companions asked, as we headed for the car.


Once I safely reached bottom the bee returned home.

I savor the gift of the protector bee.


Photograph of artwork by William Wadsen Jr. from the Alcheringa Gallery in Victoria, Canada. Wadsen is a member of the Namgis tribe, according to the Gallery website.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, bee, communication, global warming, Indian, journalism, native american, native press, Native Science, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Critters that watch over us

  1. A blessing for sure. A few years ago a friend had a deer run beside him for miles, only to leave when my friend turned off the path to go home.


  2. My friend still speaks about the experience. I hope the bee memory stays and soothes you for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

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