52. Nashville Debutante McKinlee Prince-Jeffries attends her Cotillion Ball accompanied by her brother.

ABOVE: CLICK THE ORANGE ARROW TO LISTEN TO SOUNDS AT THE 2018 NASHVILLE COTILLION BALL.

AT BOTTOM: SLIDESHOW OF IMAGES.

From the journal: 24 April 2018

The rain. The gloom. It is late April and the misery of a gloomy winter persists deep into spring here. Not since the gloom of western Canada have I fought with the weather of a place as much as Nashville weather. Thank God the sun came out for two days, Friday and Saturday!  Not just for me but for the beekeepers, the Jensen family, and McKinlee–all of whom I photographed this weekend.

As I reviewed the photos I couldn’t help but see the symbolism. First there were the images from Friday evening of Vitoria “Tori” Jensen cleaning a window then sitting on the patio with with her father–after an argument. Then tending the bees in Belle Meade backyards Saturday morning with Mitchell, especially learning about the queen bees! Then McKinlee’s debutant Cotillion Ball on Saturday night. It was a weekend of… Queen Bees.

Close-ups of the queen bee in the hive reveals surprising details. Mitchell pointed out that the worker bees tasked with guarding her all turn to face her as they work. More importantly is what the images seem to reveal about values (if nature can be said to have values)–bees display a natural integrity. There is a purpose and an order to the life of bees. Looking at the images I thought, “They serve.” I thought, “The queen is protected and served.”

I thought back to my time woking with Prime Minister Lamothe. The protocols. The secret service and the guards. All the routine and ceremony. And I thought, “There is a structure to protection. We protect what we value. We value what we love.

Looking at the bees I thought, “Love is order. Love is orderly.” So often love is depicted as a burning fire. A flame you cannot control. But that is merely passion. I thought, “Love is not a passion. Love is a commitment. To serve the queen is to love her.”

So I thought of the image of Tori alone cleaning a window her father, Jimmy, asked her to clean, then sitting next to her father, unsure, somewhat unwilling. A child desperately trying to find her place in an insecure life. If she is a queen, where are her workers? Is it her father, Jimmy, who protects her? Is it the larger faith community surrounding their family? Who are Tori’s worker bees?

When I arrived at the Cotillion Ball Saturday night and I watched the young women I thought, “Queen Bees indeed.” But not for pride. These young people have worked for months learning protocols, old values, how to waltz, when to bow. These are not mere manners being passed down to them, but a security. These young people have been raised in the hive of these good manners and rituals and now they are being presented to the world and asked to pass on their learning by how they live. Queens not for the Lording over of others but in service. 

How incredible to have spent the morning with Mitchell and his bees in Belle Meade and now this evening here in North Nashville. Nashville is a city of deep values. I hope this city can keep it this way as it grows. It will if it learns to protect its values like the workers protect their queen.

BELOW: CLICK THE ARROWS TO VIEW IMAGES OF THE MCKINLEE AND FELLOW DEBUTANTES AT NASHVILLE’S 2018 COTILLION BALL

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