Friday, March 8, 2013

Sap Rising

Lately my mind has been returning again and again back to the peaceful country town I lived in where I found myself in the soil and the seasons along with the flowers and vegetables. I have been taking you with me as I wander back every few weeks. However it is only fair that I share with you the fact that this little town, which I often refer to as "Mayberry North" - yes, there is a gazebo in the town square - is famous all on it's own.

Marathon, NY, is nestled in a valley about an hour south of Syracuse on the banks of the Tioughnioga River, a tributary of the Chenango River. The name comes from a Native American word meaning, "meeting of waters." Along with it's lovely countryside, friendly people and fertile farmland, the area is known all over New York State for something else - maple syrup! In fact, the annual Maple Festival draws crowds from all over New York and Pennsylvania in late March or early April.  You can enjoy all the many wonderful products made from maple syrup ( mine is maple ice cream) in addition to crafts, food, music, a civil war encampment, demonstrations of wood carving, quilting, rescue dogs, hay rides and even helicopter rides over the river and beyond.

Every year when I thought I could not go through one more cold, grey March day, when I felt like it was all I could do to drag one foot in front of the other, I would wake up one morning to the sight of those shinny pails nailed to the trees outside of my home. Yes! The sap was rising! That was the official sign that spring was only a few weeks away. I can remember pulling on my boots and coat and walking around the village peeking into the pails. Drip by drip the pails would fill.

Day after day the men would come around in an open bed truck and empty the pails into big drums that they took back to the little building on the opposite river bank affectionately known as The Sugar Shack. There, day in and day out, 24 hours a day, the local folk would do what their fathers and grandfathers before them had done for generations: build a roaring fire under the vats of sap and keep it going until all of that wonderful nectar had transformed itself into luscious, golden maple syrup. The smell from the chimney of the Sugar Shack could be inhaled all over the village and it was only the strongest among us who could resist the need to head down to the local diner for a short stack of pancakes dripping with butter and our very own maple syrup. Sitting back with a hot mug of coffee in hand, the phrase, "life is good," really took on meaning.

As we grow older, we come to a point when the kids are gone, the job is gone (or soon to be), and we are merely going through the motions, dragging one foot in front of the other because the alternative is just not acceptable. Then one day we feel a shift, a subtle movement ... our sap is starting to rise. Not a lot at first, but little by little something is rising inside of us that needs to come out: an idea, a new awareness, a knowing. Drip by drip it starts to take shape. Sooner or later we wake up knowing that the pail is finally full and it is time to make it into something to nourish our souls. It is Spring. The buds are on the trees. The robins have come back. A new life is being born, maybe the one that was always there but just never got cooked until it was done. Now the question is, will you bottle it up and put it on the shelf, or will you pour it out for all the world to enjoy?

Isn't it time to sit back with that cup of coffee, smack your lips, and declare, "life is good?"
And so it is.