Gifts of Maple Season

We are transitioning into the Spring, and (unbelievably!) the completion of our seventh cohort of Lagom Landing Gap Year. Every year we use maple season as a lesson not only in food production but, perhaps more so, in mindfulness and being present. Enjoy this reflective letter on the subject from Rock Castor, our Co-Founder, Co-Director, Master Carpenter, and Mindful Maple Guru.

As I sat by the fire boiling the LAST of our sap into our Sweet & Dandy Maple Syrup, I had a nostalgic moment reflecting on the blur and wonder of maple season. How can collecting and boiling sap, splitting endless cords of firewood, slogging through snow and slush and mud to collect heavy barrels of sap hold such a primal attraction?

Our pastor Corey Keyes reminds us often during a baptism that we are 85% water. We are literally “living water” (to use Jesus’ words). Maple season immerses me in the wonder of living water. Being in the woods when late winter sunshine works its magic on the snowpack reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, when the White Witch’s spell of “always winter but never Christmas” is broken. Creeks tinkle with a mysterious hint of the flow of life awakening.

Rock instructing students Matt and Jake about how to select a good location to tap a sugar maple.

Tapping a maple is a sacred experience. The clear sap bursting out of a fresh tap hole reminds me of how alive these noble trees are. Beneath the gray rippled bark, there is living water flowing—bringing nutrients from the earth up to the canopy. A process of awakening is taking place. The long sleep of winter is ending.

I am keenly, tenderly, almost painfully reminded by these trees that this same process is always taking place in me. Living water is flowing through all parts of me at all times. There is a certain vulnerability that comes with this realization. Two winters back, I remember tapping our first trees late in the day. I became aware how connected I was to the whole deal. I found myself quite overwhelmed—living tear-water spilling out of my eyes immersed in the wonder and fragility of life. 

Wendell Berry, in his fabulous poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” admonishes us to “every day do something that won’t compute.” Boiling 40 gallons of sap into a single gallon of maple syrup definitely “does not compute”. Splitting firewood, stoking the fire to keep a righteous boil going, checking the sap levels and temperatures all the while attempting not to burn the sugar shack down is a rather chaotic experience of juggling.

Lagom Landing alumni Nik and Jacob tending the sugar shack (boiling maple syrup).

Within this whirlwind of activity, though, there is an oasis, a calm in the eye of the storm. I have small windows of being able to just sit and ponder—often looking out on our woods silhouetted by late winter sunset. There is a  strange healing offered up in these moments. Perhaps our hyper-connected lives have squeezed the gift of “just pondering” right out of us. I encourage y’all to build a fire (watch some “Cavepeople TV”), watch the sun go down, hang out by a gentle lapping lake, or be “touched by the beauty of jagged mountains” (Bruce Cockburn)—device-free, book free—the mind may have to be retrained, but the healing of hurried sickness doesn’t happen instantly. It’s a practiced, slow-turning.  You might just end up “feelin’ groovy”:

Slow down, you move too fast
Got to make the morning last
Just kickin’ down the cobblestones,
Lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy!” 

Simon and Garfunkle

Wishing you a groovy, reflective, ALIVE day!

Rock Castor

For Western New Yorkers: If you (like me) have a serious sweet tooth and would like to order some of our delicious maple syrup from this year’s boil, you’re not too late! Just place your order right here!

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