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A Fresh Sap of Ideas Rising


I grew up on a farm in the Midwest. By its very nature, farm life is tied to the rhythms of nature. You can’t just do chores when you feel like it – you do them when the time is appropriate for them to be done! In the Spring, you gather sap and make syrup, haul and stack wood cut the previous winter, plant seeds, pull lambs, and look forward to fresh vegetables. In the Summer, you weed and water crops and tend orchards, fields and flocks. You cut hay and put up tomatoes and pick berries. When Autumn comes, you gather apples, harvest grain and thin your herd. And in Winter, you cut wood for the following year, enjoy the bounty of the previous seasons, prune trees, and tend the seeds you have stored for the coming spring. For the most part, none of these things can be put off until another season. Nature simply demands they be done in accordance with the rhythm of earth’s revolution around the sun. What a wonderful, simple way to organize life!

I don’t live on a farm anymore, but I still value the idea of organizing life around the nature’s rhythms. In fact, I believe I have discovered the SOUND of that rhythm. A couple weeks ago my husband and I tapped the scant 20 maple trees in our little lot. Since then we have been collecting sap as the weather dictates and making syrup in small batches.

There is something so incredibly wonderful about the maple syruping process. Being outside, hearing sap “plink” into just-emptied buckets. If you stand in the middle of the sugarbush and listen, you hear a syncopated rhythm of sap kerplunking into buckets all around you.

I like to think of this drumming as earth’s percussion section. The stream that runs along the north side of the lot adds tambourines. The spring bird calls and the wind in the trees are a woodwinds section. The spring sun — or at night, the sap-rising moon — these are the perfect stage lighting.

This past Friday afternoon was the quintessential syrup-making day: warm sun, temperature around 40, a light wind in the tree tops. Stomping through the wet snow, collecting sap, I was reminded of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson (whom you may know was a student of the Bhaghavad Gita, a yogic text):

“As the gardener, by severe pruning, forces the sap of the tree into one or two vigorous limbs, so should you stop off your miscellaneous activity and concentrate your force on one or a few points”

Harnessing and focusing energy is an important discipline, a lesson I have repeatedly re-learned throughout life.  And as I glide through my mid-forties, the message becomes more poignant each day.  As Agatha Christie wrote:

“I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find – at the age of fifty, say – that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about…It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.”

So, today I dedicate my practice to blooming in synchrony with the powerful patterns that shape life on our amazing planet, with a special nod to the authenticity of nature and her patterns:  Sap rises in the spring simply because this is how it works.   I am overwhelmed by my astounding good fortune to have been born a witness to this pulsing planet.

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