Telling the Bees of the Legend of Lisa

I asked Pemberton’s bee-keeping community if there was anyone interested in contributing their know-how and passion to Traced Elements. Jennie Helmer put her hand up, and offers this first post, of bee-keeper wisdom, in dedication to Lisa Korthals. 

This community has lost one of the most-loved, revered, and all-around rad women this grateful town has ever seen.  Pemberton will not soon forget the beauty, grace and strength that was Lisa Korthals.

When I heard the unimaginable news of her death, I sat in stunned silence. Thinking of all the broken-hearts aching in our town. I imagined Lisa’s beautiful smile and her effortless love of all things related to family, friends, wheels and skis.

Eventually I went to sit with my honey bees, to tell them the story of Lisa’s life and death.

I sat on the old wooden fence beside the bees. I built this fence to wrap around their hives. It was designed to give them flying space while I sip tea and watch them zip in and out of their little hive-homes. At times, I’m able to mark the changing days by the various shades of yellow pollen stuffed gently into their legs. In the early Spring the pollen is a brilliant, neon yellow, later it turns a dusky orange.

Today it is an intense burst of yellow, as I sit and tell the bees of Lisa.

The “telling of the bees” is an old-world tradition, where bees are informed of important moments in their keepers’ lives. In Celtic myth, bees were regarded as having great wisdom and acted as messengers between worlds, able to travel to the Otherworld bringing back messages from the gods.

telling the bees by jennie helmer

I told the bees the tale of the warrior woman who has died in the unforgiving and indiscriminating arms of the mountains. I told the bees of Lisa’s family, of her phenomenal soul-mate Johnny with his gentle smile, his bravery and unimaginable strength. I told the bees of her son Tye who embodies Lisa’s spirit, who is a kind soul and an amazing ski racer, and who is building into his own legend at such a young age. And of lovely Chris, Lisa’s brother whose spirit she kept alive with stories and photos.

I told the bees of her daring ascents, her tenacious descents, and the beautiful places she’d been in this world. I told the bees of the other female ski guides in the area whose souls were crushed on this day, whose worlds would never be the same again. A remarkably close group of strong women, they are the queens of an industry where female ski guides are revered, iconic and so undeniably safe in every choice they make in the mountains. This should not have happened to one of them.

I shared with the bees that the hearts and minds of our community are devastated and tattered and torn. I asked that the bees find these hearts, and gently give them strength to keep breathing and moving and smiling; and then I asked that if they could find Lisa, could they let Lisa know that we will hold sacred her memory, that her family will be loved and cared for and that she will never be forgotten. If they could also stay a bit longer by her side, I asked, could they tell her that we’ll see her in the mountains, on the trails, and everywhere in-between.

As I told the bees, they told me: be still, be strong, be comforted, be kind, be love in this life, live like the Legend that is Lisa.