When I think about “bumble” I think first of bees. Flying striped puffs, mostly harmless, comically inept. Described by their friends and frustrated spouses as “all thumbs,” these bees that drone into the back of my mind when I hear this word accidentally bump into each other with many “whoops”es and “excuse me”s, they drop everything they’re carrying and end up just covered in pollen, they are sweet but dim.
My charming bees don’t swarm, they just slowly and erratically plow into each other and then veer off again, only to repeat the exercise with another apologetic and equally baffled bee. Bees! You have to just laugh and throw up your hands. For years and years, I thought everyone also called bumble bees “goblin bees” but apparently no one does. Really, I think that’s for the best, because bumble describes them so much better. They’re bumblers. In the old days they were called dumbledors which is also quite satisfying to think about.
As the soothing drone of the bees quiets, I begin to think of “bumble” itself. It’s a word that sounds exactly like someone nearly dropping a large stack of very full file folders. Or a juggler almost missing every catch. One who bumbles is not bad even if they’re bad at what they’re doing. It’s a clown word, without all the clown bullshit. Bumble isn’t the same as fumble. Bumble is a way of being. Fumble is something you do. Bumble is what you do around the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil; you don’t think about it. Fumble is what you do when you’re in the checkout line and can’t get your credit card out in time; you are hyper aware of your ineptitude.
The older I get the more prone to bumbling I am. I’m comfortable enough with myself that being seen as mildly ridiculous isn’t particularly troublesome. Indeed, I suspect that not a lot truly bothers inherent bumblers. Life is a placid pool, an collection of small troubles, easily mended, sprinkled amid a vast, lilting existence. I aspire to bumble.