Our Maple sugaring season began with events of precious familiarity and timelessness. We crunched through deep snows in early March to re-aquainted ourselves with some beloved old Maple trees, seeking just the right places to drill the taps. We hung our battered much loved buckets beneath the sheltering limbs then listened for the steady pings as the sap began to drip into the empty buckets.
Each day since has offered the signature quality of sugaring, maple’s unique blend of mystery and majestic free will. We must wait in daily uncertainty to see if the sap will run. There is just no predicting which trees will run and when. A day that didn’t meet the scientific criteria- too cold and too windy- delivered us overflowing buckets. Yesterday when conditions were technically perfect, the buckets were empty on all but a few trees. Maple’s superior wisdom about its own eternal flow drives the show.
Whenever we do collect and no matter the volume, we carefully lift out every last lightning bug from the faintly sweet sap before pouring our buckets into our collecting tank. Those lightening bugs promise magic summer nights, and each one feels important to rescue. Once the sap is gathered, it’s my primary responsibility to keep the home fires burning. I stoke the outdoor evaporator. I try to maintain the level of the sap in the pans so that the boil keeps going and the level never gets low enough for the pans to burn out. At night when the fire burns best, the stars keep me company as I load the firebox and refill the sap pan.
I feel lucky to be doing tasks so elemental, so satisfying and yet so magical in their alchemy. It’s a lot like so many things in spring.
Including pruning which is another outdoor focus right now. The last few weeks as I worked to prune the apple, plum and pear trees in our small orchard, a little bit of me kept looking over at Ben’s fruit trees next door. The fact is, Ben bought not only a cosy cottage, a woodlot and a fifteen acre field but a beautiful old but neglected orchard filled with the kind of overgrown trees in which a few judicious branch removals make an enormous difference and really open up the trees in a dramatic way.
I made myself finish pruning our trees before asking Ben if I could work on his trees. As he is busy manhandling the out of control hedgerow between the two properties, he gave me free rein to start in on his trees. This pruning has been such fun. I have cut out some mammoth branches crossing other branches or messing with the architecture of the whole tree. With some cuts, there is an immediate and dramatic change in the way the tree looks and feels.
My one frustration has been the damage done by our recent ice storm. A number of trees in the hedgerow next to Ben’s orchard broke and fell right on top of three of his apple trees. I don’t really trust my chainsaw skills at any height let alone when bobbing from a ladder twenty feet off the ground, so I need to wait until some Sheehan man has the time and energy to cut off those broken trees. My limitations irritate me, and I don’t like looking at these apple trees smothered in dead limbs either.
But then I think of Japan and the patience being asked of so many there.
When I was about eight, a master gardener from Kyoto visited my parents and gave me my first and best example of how to prune a tree. I hold my memory of his work and the crab apple tree he pruned in my mind’s eye whenever I prune. This year I think of all the gardeners in Japan who won’t have the opportunity or time to prune. I think of all the people who relish the season of Ume and Cherry blossoms yet won’t get to savor these Flowers. I think of those who look at whole cities gone not just a couple trees crushed by an ice storm. It rapidly puts things in perspective for me and makes all the small, ordinary tasks that I get to do in the gardens and in my life feel so infinitely precious.
And the Angels keep telling me that it is in these small things we do, loving the earth right at our feet and loving the people in our midst, that we do the most for the people in Japan. As we are all one, in serving the part of the one where we live with as much love as we can muster, we help everyone and all things, including Japan.
Because the work of our small part of the whole involves Flowers and Flower Essences, part of our daily life is sending the love and healing wisdom of the Flowers off to Japan, a place and people that love Flowers so much.
Our Special Mix for Japan continues to go off in many packages. I would like to take a moment to thank some of the people helping to get the Flower Essences distributed in Japan. Earth Angel, Tomoyo Rezvani has been sending the Essences to folks all over her country. Nora Karr, Nao Gonno, and Masaki Schuette and her family have all taken up the charge to get this mix to people as well. Among other news, we have heard of deliveries to babies and worried mothers, students in Tokyo, as well as people in Kobe who lived through their own quake in ’95 and find themselves particularly stressed by the aftershocks. Masaki’s family in Akita prefecture have given Essences to people traveling to Sendai and so the Essences are going into particularly hard hit areas.
Many of you are working with the Essence mix at home in America, and the Angels have said to me again and again that this is a big help to Japan because it helps the people of Japan have an oasis of calm vibration to tune into. Just as we feel the rumblings that have torn their world apart, they feel it when we hold a space of calm for them.
I would like to thank another Earth Angel, Audrey Cowgill, who has made this project possible. I would also like to thank Deborah Sams, Laurie Fuda, Debi Melzer, Tish Heath and Barbara Herndon for being our postage fairy godmothers. So much love and grateful thanks to you all!