The weeds behind my apartment had been unruly for a long time. Every time I walked by I would think, "I've got to pull those weeds."
The pathway between my apartment and the one next door was embarrassing. It's not that I didn't want to clean it up. It was that I was afraid of the bees.
For about a year, we had told our landlord about a swarm that has made a hive in the stucco wall above the weeds. Every morning I heard them buzzing outside my bathroom window, and every afternoon I walked by the weeds. I knew something had to be done, but I didn't want to get stung.
Last Sunday, I decided that I was tired of waiting for my landlord to get rid of the bees. I wanted to pull the weeds.
In a spur of determination, I put on jeans and a long-sleeve jacket, and headed out to face the weeds and the bees. Right off the bat, a bee flew into my coffee. Annoyed, I knelt down and started pulling anyway.
I was making some progress, when I suddenly heard a buzzing in my ear. I waved my hand past my head, but the noise only grew louder. I couldn't figure out where the bee was. I stood up quickly, afraid that it had crept into my jacket.
Next thing I knew, I was on the sidewalk ripping off my jacket in jerking motions like a scene out of "Tommy Boy." The bee was in my hair. I flitted and grabbed, shaking my head like a madwoman, and finally the bee went away.
Feeling slightly foolish, I pulled myself together and went back to pulling weeds, now with a spiteful resolve to not let the bees take me off course.
As I pulled weeds, I came across a lot of trash — candy wrappers and cups, broken bottles and paper. There was more to weed out than I had thought. I kept pulling and cleaning. The weeds had grown up around the gas meter, and I thought about how glad the meter reader would be to have the area cleaned up.
In fact, I thought of a lot of people who would be glad to have the area cleared up. It occurred to me that my procrastination and fear have kept my neighbors and housemates mired in weeds and trash.
As I cleaned out all that was ugly and didn't belong, I found a flower growing. It was a sweet surprise. As I knelt in the dirt, the bees swarming above me, I realized that they weren't out to get me.
The bees didn't exist to torment me. They exist to pollinate flowers, and here the thing that had kept me afraid of facing the work that needed to be done, was the same thing that made the beauty I enjoyed.
As I stood up to admire my work, another bee dove into my coffee. I calmly splashed it out and kept drinking, not afraid anymore, and in awe of what I had found among the weeds.
As you consider how to spend your Sunday morning, maybe it's time to face "the bees," whatever it is that has you afraid.
Maybe you'll find something beautiful in the places you thought there were only weeds. Maybe in cleaning out your weeds and trash (and perhaps looking a little foolish) you'll add to the beauty for your neighbors and family — and possibly your meter reader.
P.S. If you know a good apiarist, send me their number. Although past my fear, I still have a bee problem.
Lifelong Costa Mesa resident CRISSY BROOKS is the executive director and co-founder of MIKA. She lives on the city's Westside and is active in community service. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.