Archive for April, 2019

For the past three weeks, we’ve been involved in a lovely and intriguing process here on the farm. This particular season of the year brings a short period of weather where the nights fall below freezing and the days warm up in the spring thaw. This oscillation of temperature, combined with the changing patterns of sunlight, creates the conditions for sugar-laden sap to flow quickly in the trees. By tapping the trees and collecting this sap, we are able to enjoy the alchemy of maple syrup making. Here on the prairies we don’t have many of the big sugar maples of the eastern woodlands, but we do have Manitoba maples (sometimes called box elder, or even elf maple (!)) These maples are a little less prolific and less sweet in their sap production, but its still worthwhile to make the syrup.
Visiting the trees every day to gather the sap is a delight in and of itself. They are offering their lifeblood, not in dangerous quantities, but it still is a good reminder for me to thank them, and ask the Creator to bless them. Like so many things on the farm, syrup production is derived directly from the life of other persons … in this case, tree persons.
Now, if you’ve never made maple syrup before, you can be forgiven for assuming that the sap can be used straight out of the tree. In reality, maple sap is over 95% water. It has to be carefully boiled down, sedimented, strained, and finished. The ratio of sap to syrup is somewhere around 40:1, so there’s lots of evaporating to be done.
As our woodstove burns slowly throughout the days, the subtle smell of the syrup wafts through the kitchen. An eye has to be kept open, as you don’t want it to boil down too far and burn. There is a real magic to the process. The end result, after pails and pails of sap, is a mere handful of pint jars of liquid amber. But the small effort is worth it … this stuff is the real deal.
For some reason, syrup-making this spring resonated for me with the process of lent. This lenten season has had a similar alchemical effect upon me as the constant boiling of the woodstove upon our maple sap. By evaporating the excess liquid, the syrup appears. Likewise for me, by applying the fire of spiritual discipline, I have found that some of the superfluous issues of my life have simply evaporated, leaving behind the soul essence which I am looking for. Sedimentation and straining of unwanted mineral content from the syrup corresponds to the leaving behind of some unhelpful habits of my life. The sweet amber goodness remains.
Of course, the metaphor is not perfect, and the soul-process is not as concise as making syrup. I’m under no illusions that the clarity of my essence will remain untainted. That is why lent comes year after year, and not once and for all.
But for now I will rejoice … this Easter season there will be good maple syrup on the pancakes. And in my soul, the power of Resurrection with the turning of the Wheel. Blessed be.

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