At the end of the world: Stories of hope, resilience, and truth


Here we are at possibly the end of the world and I’m writing about bees…

Full Disclosure that Will Surprise No one: I’m a bit of a nerd. Growing up in a working class immigrant Latinx home, I was obsessed with comics, video games, and fantasy / science fiction. There was an absolute freedom in diving into a world not my own and feeling powerful even if the characters didn’t look like me. As I aged into high school, I discovered Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While there are very legitimate critiques of portrayals of characters of color, I appreciated it’s feminism. Female characters were written with a depth and complexity not seen elsewhere (check out Whedon on why he writes such strong female characters).

As I got older, I ‘branched’ out to Joss Whedon’s Angel. My favorite part of Angel is that the show explores the banality of evil (how I love you, Hannah Arendt). What is the most damaging is not evil acts done by evil people but everyday acts where people are ‘going along’ with the status quo. Angel taught me that our goal should be striving to resist, to commit to the struggle, and that, at times, the struggle is more important than the winning.

Case in Point: In Angel’s last episode, Not Fade Away, two characters, Gunn and Annie, are talking in South Central LA. She’s in the midst of packing up and moving from one location to another to provide psychiatric services and support to low-income communities and he’s asking her how things are going:

ANNIE: It's not so bad. We've had some really decent donations, and it's helping. (they hand off the boxes to the men on the truck) We actually have a part-time paid psychiatric staff.

GUNN: What if I told you it doesn't help? What would you do if you found out that none of it matters? That it's all controlled by forces more powerful and uncaring than we can conceive, and they will never let it get better down here. What would you do?

ANNIE: I'd get this truck packed before the new stuff gets here. (Gunn nods) Wanna give me a hand?

GUNN: I do.

Right there. What matters is not assured victory but that we will consistently fight against what is unjust to create something better. Why bring this up? Because here we are at what feels like the end of the world and I’m choosing to keep bees. Bees.

Why? There are few things more revolutionary than planting seeds and caring for life that is not your own even as the bombs are falling, the guns are blazing, when children who look like your children are locked in cages, and your community is dying exponentially from a novel disease. I’m choosing bees because in large acts and small, we must all continue to push towards life, towards the beautiful struggle that is resistance even if we are not alive to reap the rewards.

We have so much to learn from our bee relatives on what resistance, struggle, and cooperation look like. Did you know that bees are one of the most important species on Earth,70% of the world’s agriculture requires bees for pollination AND bees are the only living species who don’t carry any pathogens and they are dying off at an exponential rate, almost 90% in the last few years. The list of why bees are incredible and necessary to support all life on earth.

We must return to our plant and animal relatives and to our own ancestral knowledge. If we are to survive, we need to learn what has been lost during the violent process of colonization. Imagine a Puerto Rico where there were thousands of community gardens, where everyone knew how to rebuild, and water purification was the norm. Imagine a California where public education meant that youth were trained in creating defensible space against wildfires. Imagine a New Orleans where bayous were national treasures so that when hurricanes hit, they slowed down enough to pose minimal danger. Activities that should be as natural as breathing are now foreign, scary, and dangerous.

Beekeeping was one of those foreign activities. No one I knew kept bees and it wasn’t until I saw a post on Nextdoor (yes, they sell more than racist propaganda and surveillance) that someone was selling all new (not used) beekeeping equipment for $150 that I was sold. Beekeeping became an accessible reality to me. It was the equivalent of creating a beekeeping avatar of myself on a video game. All of a sudden that entire world became possible. While none of the images of beekeepers looked like me, I was well-versed in using my imagination to imagine myself in all kinds of different skins - organizer, academic, founder, and now beekeeper.

[Important Bee PSA: if you are looking into keeping bees NEVER buy used boxes and wax. There is something called American Foul Brood and there is a chance that your equipment can be infected with it. It’s not worth it.]

And now I want to share this knowledge with you so that I’m not the only person of color who keeps bees in the city. So, if you’re thinking of keeping bees, here’s some knowledge to get you started. Think of it like fairy dust in the form of bee pollen falling from the sky to transport you on the path to beekeeping:

  • Spring time is the best time to buy a nucleus of bees;

  • There are so many types of bees and so many places both in person and over the mail where you can get them;

  • Go with a reputable source - I got my bees from BioFuel Oasis. Their bees are bred for gentleness and are mite resistant. Also, if your queen dies within the first three weeks, they’ll help you out;

  • While you can catch your own swarm, I would leave that to the professionals.

  • Biofuel sold their bees either in a pre-assembled bee hive or in a nucleus box that I would need to transfer.

Feeling full of confidence (and possibly some wine), I paid for a nucleus that I would need to transfer in late 2019 and now here I am, a beekeeper at the end of the world in May 2020.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen - with Mycelium, my bees, family, and our larger community. What I do know is that every space I inhabit from here until I pass will be filled with life. You’ll find seeds stored, propolis and beeswax and chicken feathers in every space I inhabit. And I want to share this journey with you. I’m committed to growing together as a community. We are going to take back this space and plant a garden in it. This is our sacred right. Our resistance. Our ancestors died for us to be here. Let’s make it worthwhile.

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Before We Begin or Why It’s Hard to Commune in Nature

A Prelude

Trigger Warning: Heavy Content, Violence Against Girls, Rape, Colonization

Poem at the beginning by Andrea Gibson

Whew. It’s been such a journey already to keep bees and I’m only at the beginning of it.

I’m starting this blog because I realize that it is super easy to get overwhelmed by beekeeping. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been intimidated. Gardening, permaculture, beekeeping, earth stewardship is hard and not always for the ideas imagined. I’ve been reflecting on why it feels so difficult and I wanted to share these thoughts in the hope that others can find it helpful. I’ll also be sharing some poetry and musical links as they come up as they’ve also informed in in this process.

Before I start talking about bees (which I’ll do, I swear!), I want to dive into what informs my relationship to nature. My relationship to nature and care of it is fraught with the best and most traumatized parts of myself. As Audre Lorde said, “there is no such thing as single issue struggles because we do not live single issue lives.” The idea of beekeeping, communing in nature, and gardening are all difficult ideas for me for reasons based in race, class, and, most importantly gender.

When I was 7 years old, one of my cousin’s best friends and my friend, Raquel Fabre disappeared while living in the apartment complex of my cousin. According to her mother, she went out to take out the trash and never came back. She was found in the woods behind my cousin’s apartment complex, her hands bound together, her pants on her head, with signs of rape on her small body. She was the same age as my son is today. 7 years old. I only have vague memories of that time. I remember the smell of southern Louisiana grass and the beautiful blue-grey of a ready-to-rain sky and apartment buildings on all sides of us as we played in the hot sun. I remember laughter and feeling that invincible sense of youth. Before that last time, Raquel would often be at my cousin’s apartment, sharing food, jokes, and a story. To this day, apartment buildings are difficult for me.

Much later on, we found out that it was her mother’s boyfriend who lived with her who kidnapped, assaulted, and killed her. Of him, I have no memories. Of Raquel, I remember blurry images, a sense of friendship, and a curious mind. I wish with all my heart I could conjure up more memories, something that defines her beyond the bare details of her death. I am so tired of so many of us being remembered only for our deaths….

Growing up, Raquel’s story was one of those stories that was whispered about and quickly hushed up when kids walked into the room. My mother, always vigilant because of her own family history with disappearances, would talk about it with my aunts and uncle over our corded phone in the kitchen. She would quickly hang up whenever me, my brother, or my cousins would walk in.

When I called my mom to tell her I was writing this blog, her voice dropped when she mentioned Raquel’s name as if in prayer. I didn't even have to say Raquel's last name for my mother to remember. Despite distance, I can picture the sign of the cross my mother did when I mentioned Raquel and I know there will be another candle on my mother's altar tonight.

why can we never


about the blood.

the blood of our ancestors.

the blood of our history.

the blood between our legs.

- Blood

By Nayyirah Waheed

When my cousins and I heard she disappeared, I was devastated in the way that kids are devastated. I was sad, scared, and resilient. Resilient meant I learned to bury that fear under the watchful eye of my mother. This fear would later grow deep roots and manifest itself as a fear of being outdoors in nature, fear of apartment buildings, fear of the unknown, and what it meant to be a girl-child in a larger world full of danger.

Both of my parents were immigrants - from Caribbean Nicaragua and Pacific El Salvador, two completely different environments from southern Louisiana with it’s lazy summers and deep bayous. My mother, already aware of the damage men could do, was terrified of stranger danger. She closely monitored my every move, oftentimes not letting me leave the relative safety of the block. After Raquel's murder, we weren’t allowed to leave my aunt’s small fenced porch. I wasn’t allowed to be beyond the sight of my grandmother. We had to make believe entire worlds in my aunt’s 6 by 6 feet concrete space. My grandmother learned to plant vertical rose gardens using nothing but reused cartons and imagination. I became adept at running only in front of the space of three houses on either side of my own street.

My mother, not knowing what else to do, clamped down on my activities. While the world was my older brother’s oyster, I was even more confined and never, ever allowed in nature without multiple layers of adult supervision. As a female-identified child, nature was dangerous and unknown. My mother made it known that girls could disappear and never come back. This is a fear I still hold today. Travel alone comes difficult to me. I text really good friends my address when I go into unknown spaces. I shy away from men I don’t know.

On a class level, my mother was taught that in order to make money, she had to move away from the land. While my family came from a rich history of growers and caretakers of the land and sea, colonization had told both of them that progress meant moving beyond the outdoors into the city where jobs flowed freely even if money trickled down slowly. My father left Bluefields, Nicaragua when he was 14 with a 3rd grade education. Before then, his entire life had been surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. He was able to secure citizenship through multiple tours in Korea and then later received job security through the longshoreman's union of New Orleans. Both of these meant that he didn't have steady access to a sustainable relationship to Earth.

My mother left rural El Salvador and one of her truest loves behind when she was in nursing school to come play nurse maid to middle class and upper class white New Orleanians while she worked her way through medical school. Eventually, she was able to bring her brother, sister, and her mother away from the ravages of a civil war fought in the mountains and jungles of El Salvador to southern Louisiana. The past was woods, forest, and farm land. The future was the security of cities where bright lights illuminated the darkest places.

Growing up, my job was to go to college and find a good job, ideally in the city with the bright lights of promise and success while still remaining close to my family. It’s only been relatively recently that I’ve felt (mostly) comfortable in nature. Nature is quiet, still, and filled with unknown spaces that my anxiety fills in with all sorts of twisted, and plausible, possible realities. For friends that know me, I don’t watch scary or anxiety producing movies, especially if they involve violence against women. There are too many scary stories in my brain involving the evil of men. I don’t need another moment. Since Raquel Fabre, there have been hundreds of other Raquels, those who have lived and are friends of mine and those whose ghosts haunt my subconscious. I've had to learn how to breathe in that fear in slow deep breaths, self-deprecating jokes, and a thousand small prayers to ancestors.

And so, before I can begin on my modest gardening and beekeeping exploits, I must begin here - in this place of fear, trauma, triggers, and hope. Hope because I trust in my ability to plant these seeds in the earth full of the blood and history of our collective ancestors. I am the only one who can heal my own trauma and I recognize that I’m not the only one who brings these her-stories with them. We must voice these fears and bring them into the openness of day to move past them. The greatest power fear has over us is the power to kill our own dreams and limit our future.

I am tired of watering the ghosts of my memory. And when I plant this seed, I want you to understand how hard won it is. Every inch of it is hard won. Every. Inch. I'm planting these next seeds in my journey for you Raquel. May you rise in power. I'm sending you so much love baby girl. So much love.

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Updated: Mar 31, 2020

Mycelium Youth Network emerged out of deep hope and crippling anxiety out of where we were in this particular moment in the world. In my head, I keep hearing the quote, “My great-grandchildren ask me in a dream, what did you do when the world was unraveling?” This, I will respond. This. This wretched hard to beat hope, the love of humanity which many doesn’t live up to its full name. Another quote,

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

My anxiety pumps in and out of me. Sometimes, it feels like I am only made of mad hope, anxious dreams, and fierce passion. All tightly contained by a form that runs towards extremes. The fires were burning, the waters were rising. And us? What are we to do? What are we to do?

Historical Content

At the time, a hurricane had devastated Puerto Rico, multiple earthquakes had hit up and down Mexico, and the air was so toxic in Northern California that it snuck through the cracks and crevices and into closed door houses. I remember nursing my 14-month-old daughter, wondering about the world that she would inherit, the world that I was passing on to her. I kept remembering the quote from Chief Seaettle, “ We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” What was this world that I was leaving from them? Working for a social justice school, where curriculum should be directly linked to the daily lives of our students and the communities we serve, I noticed that even we hit the mark, there was so much that we weren’t preparing our students for – namely how to live in a climate related world. No amount of activism, of organizing will erase the fact that climate change is real. There are processes in places that we cannot change. Given this reality, we need to prepare our youth to live in the newest incarnation of the world. No amount of positive thinking would change that reality. While we still need to fight to lessen the impact of climate change, it’s reality is no longer a hypothetical but a reality.

At my job, I had dropped to 80% to finish my doctorate in theology. I had received multiple emails from my program, ‘early registration now open,’ then ‘registration now open’, to ‘late registration now open’ and finally an email from the people at registration asking me why I hadn’t signed up for any classes. I realized that my pragmatic anxiety had prevented me from signing up for classes. Because if I signed up, it would mean that I was assuming a ‘business as usual’ model’ where the world would be the same in twenty or thirty years as it was today. And I firmly didn’t believe that. And that reality, for good or bad, is no longer a possibility. So, I quit my doctorate program. I wrote a letter of apology to my advisor and the teachers who had nurtured my intellectual spirit. It was the first time I had thought of leaving my PhD program without a feeling of loss.

At first, I was at a bit of a loss in terms of what I should during the 20% of the time that I was calling my own. I could relax, take a day to rest, restore, heal that which is always inevitably damaged at organizations posing as social justice organizations. Yet, no amount of inner peace would change the world that our children are inheriting. The week before my supposed break, I took a long shower, marveling at the wonder of having clean water, wondering when that would no longer be an option. Would no longer be a possibility for our children. And I decided that I would be part of the change. I needed to shift my world, my work to teaching our students how to survive in the world in which they are inheriting. More than that, they need to learn how to thrive.

Mycelium Youth Network is my answer to the question, ‘how will our young people face climate change with open eyes’. I, and others, will help them create a toolkit that they can use to make the necessary changes in their smaller communities. Join us in our movement to prepare our students for the world they will inherit.

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"Mycelium is the part of the fungus that grows underground in thread-like formations. It connects roots to one another and breaks down plant material to create healthier ecosystems. Mycelium is the largest organism on earth. Interconnectedness. Remediation. Detoxification."

― adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy


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