It’s the freeze at night, thaw by day cycle
of early spring that gets the sap flowing.
Freezing creates negative pressure that condenses cells in the tree.
Thawing causes positive pressure, which expands those cells.
The sugary sap of the maple thus flows up and down the tree.
Syruping is a ritual of spring for many
signaling the change of seasons
humming a few bars of what’s to come.
It’s joyful and sensual work:
walking the woods, tapping
hauling buckets wondrously full
chopping wood, lots of it
and boiling. And boiling some more.
It’s delightful and tedious,
best done with a friend or four.
40 gallons boil down to 1 gallon of syrup.
Every sweet spoonful totally worth it.
When I am in the woods
purposefully clearing a trail and tapping trees
or wandering without destination,
I can feel how I belong there.
No matter how I show up
being outside calms and energizes me.
It doesn’t solve the details
of whatever has me upside down at the time,
but it does bring me back to myself.
Which isn’t always pretty, but at least it’s real.
Like the pressure from freezing and thawing that moves the sap
I, too, hold the negative and positive in my body.
Carrying it with ease or heavy like a stone.
I worry at the heavy times, certain I’m doing it wrong.
As if the negative is a mistake I should be able to correct
if I only got it right, changed my thinking, ate less sugar,
was more grateful, less self-focused.
The trees, though, are my teachers here.
As sap trickles from the small holes I’ve drilled,
I bear witness to a truth that I rarely accept–
that negative and positive both have a place, a purpose.
It is the combination, in fact, that is imperative
in order for things to flow and grow.
To be clear, I’d rather skip the negative, the hard stuff.
Sometimes I do, or at least think I do,
until it catches up with me.
So as the trees are my witness,
may I hold this knowing:
that positive and negative
are not the same as right and wrong.
Positive and negative pressure create movement, impetus,
maybe even the will to take action
on those things we know to be right.
So here goes…and you can hold me to this…
when I feel the weight of negativity coursing through my veins,
I will try not to hurry through it or condemn it.
I will hold to the image of ‘sap’ running from my roots to my branches,
informing, urging me forward.
I will call to mind the wise and gentle maple trees and try to remember
that both the positive and the negative are essential
for flow, for movement, for change, for sweetness.