Maple Trees, Maple Sugaring, and Soul-Extracting

I didn’t plan to write about trees. It just so happens I saw a poem about willow trees on a website, and a corresponding article about willow trees and aspirin, which prompted me to write about willow trees here.

I happened to come across a poem (posted near the end, below) which referenced maple trees, plus it’s also maple sugaring season. 

I was at a friend’s house yesterday, and they were tapping four maple trees in their own yard for maple syrup. This isn’t at a farm – just a house in a suburb west of the city, like any other suburban neighborhood.

I learned that the key to good sap flow is temperature; the temperature should be above freezing in the day and below freezing at night.

{Where is my heart toward Jesus, toward others? Warmed up, cold, freezing, thawing? I admit, because of wounds and pains, I can easily withdraw…. How about you?}

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They drilled a 3 inch hole in the wood, inserted the taps (which they purchased online), and then let the sap drain in the bucket.

{Am I allowing Jesus to speak directly to me, speak into my wounds? Drill his words into my heart and soul and conscience, where I need to hear truth? He needs access- am I allowing that?}

 

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They built their own fire pit outdoors, lined by cement blocks and rocks, and boiled the sap in large pots above a fire. It would boil from about 9 am – 6 pm. This picture was taken about 3 in the afternoon, so it wasn’t quite done yet. When done, the sap will turn dark and become a thick syrup. It takes about 40 gallons to make one gallon of syrup. The finished syrup has a smokey, woodsy flavor, since it’s boiled outdoors, which a couple of her kids don’t care for, she said, but it is still used and useful. 

{The thought of going under fire, a process of refinement, sounds painful. I’m not eager to jump into that. Are you? Who is? Sometimes, I’m dragged in, honestly. The result, though, is a greater Christ-likeness. Can I be thankful?  Will I be thankful? What about the end result? What is God extracting from me? What is it- and what can it be?}

I love maple syrup. It is more expensive, that is true. But after eating it, it is very difficult to eat the sugary, icky, fake syrup. Agave nectar is not a bad substitute, and I have used that. But it still isn’t maple syrup. :) 

My friend also has a wood burning stove indoors which she keeps burning for a good long while during the winter. Here is her wood pile:

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I asked here where she got so much wood. Her answer? She picked up for free, she said, from here or there, from curbsides (wood which others were discarding). Sometimes, they’ve stopped the Asplundh trucks and asked them for wood. Very resourceful, I’d say!

Maple trees turn such glorious and vibrant colors in the fall. The leaves are unmistakable, and in the late winter/early spring, they can be tapped for sap. Isn’t it interesting that a natural sugar source comes from a normal, everyday tree found in North America? (Other sugar sources include sugar cane and beets.)

{Maybe sometimes you feel as I have felt: ever felt drained of all hope, tired, and wounded? As if life sucked everything out of you? But I have also experienced healing and restoration through Jesus. Often that is the only place I can even find anything of hope. The world may still be its callous, draining, biting self. But, there is Hope:}  

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10

and this:

 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4

This is the kind of life-giving sap that never runs out, never runs dry.

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Three poems are below. The first is the poem which referenced maple trees, albeit briefly, by Emily Dickinson:

Dear March – Come in
by Emily Dickinson

DEAR March, come in!
How glad I am!
I looked for you before.
Put down your hat—
You must have walked—
How out of breath you are!
Dear March, how are you?
And the rest?
Did you leave Nature well?
Oh, March, come right upstairs with me,
I have so much to tell!

I got your letter, and the bird’s;
The maples never knew
That you were coming,—I declare,
How red their faces grew!
But, March, forgive me—
And all those hills
You left for me to hue;
There was no purple suitable,
You took it all with you.

Who knocks? That April!
Lock the door!
I will not be pursued!
He stayed away a year, to call
When I am occupied.
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come,
That blame is just as dear as praise
And praise as mere as blame

I searched for more poems about maple trees and couldn’t find much, but truly I didn’t search for long or very hard. I did find a very long poem by Robert Frost. It was so long, I didn’t want to read it initially, but then I did read it, and it is a story about a girl named “Maple”,  how other people misunderstood her name, and her quest to understand where her name came from. It is unique, and I’ve written in the past a little bit about names, so I decided to post it.

Maple
by Robert Frost

Her teacher’s certainty it must be Mabel
Made Maple first take notice of her name.
She asked her father and he told her, ‘Maple—
Maple is right.’
‘But teacher told the school
There’s no such name.’
‘Teachers don’t know as much
As fathers about children, you tell teacher.
You tell her that it’s M-A-P-L-E.
You ask her if she knows a maple tree.
Well, you were named after a maple tree.
Your mother named you. You and she just saw
Each other in passing in the room upstairs,
One coming this way into life, and one
Going the other out of life—you know?
So you can’t have much recollection of her.
She had been having a long look at you.
She put her finger in your cheek so hard
It must have made your dimple there, and said,
‘Maple.’ I said it too: ‘Yes, for her name.’
She nodded. So we’re sure there’s no mistake.
I don’t know what she wanted it to mean,
But it seems like some word she left to bid you
Be a good girl—be like a maple tree.
How like a maple tree’s for us to guess.
Or for a little girl to guess sometime.
Not now—at least I shouldn’t try too hard now.
By and by I will tell you all I know
About the different trees, and something, too,
About your mother that perhaps may help.’
Dangerous self-arousing words to sow.
Luckily all she wanted of her name then
Was to rebuke her teacher with it next day,
And give the teacher a scare as from her father.
Anything further had been wasted on her,
Or so he tried to think to avoid blame.
She would forget it. She all but forgot it.
What he sowed with her slept so long a sleep,
And came so near death in the dark of years,
That when it woke and came to life again
The flower was different from the parent seed.
It carne back vaguely at the glass one day,
As she stood saying her name over aloud,
Striking it gently across her lowered eyes
To make it go well with the way she looked.
What was it about her name? Its strangeness lay
In having too much meaning. Other names,
As Lesley, Carol, Irma, Marjorie,
Signified nothing. Rose could have a meaning,
But hadn’t as it went. (She knew a Rose.)
This difference from other names it was
Made people notice it—and notice her.
(They either noticed it, or got it wrong.)
Her problem was to find out what it asked
In dress or manner of the girl who bore it.
If she could form some notion of her mother—
What she bad thought was lovely, and what good.
This was her mother’s childhood home;
The house one story high in front, three stories
On the end it presented to the road.
(The arrangement made a pleasant sunny cellar.)
Her mother’s bedroom was her father’s still,
Where she could watch her mother’s picture fading.
Once she found for a bookmark in the Bible
A maple leaf she thought must have been laid
In wait for her there. She read every word
Of the two pages it was pressed between,
As if it was her mother speaking to her.
But forgot to put the leaf back in closing
And lost the place never to read again.
She was sure, though, there had been nothing in it.

So she looked for herself, as everyone
Looks for himself, more or less outwardly.
And her self-seeking, fitful though it was,
May still have been what led her on to read,
And think a little, and get some city schooling.
She learned shorthand, whatever shorthand may
Have had to do with it- she sometimes wondered.
So, till she found herself in a strange place
For the name Maple to have brought her to,
Taking dictation on a paper pad
And, in the pauses when she raised her eyes,
Watching out of a nineteenth story window
An airship laboring with unshiplike motion
And a vague all-disturbing roar above the river
Beyond the highest city built with hands.
Someone was saying in such natural tones
She almost wrote the words down on her knee,
‘Do you know you remind me of a tree-
A maple tree?’

‘Because my name is Maple?’
‘Isn’t it Mabel? I thought it was Mabel.’

‘No doubt you’ve heard the office call me Mabel.
I have to let them call me what they like.’

They were both stirred that he should have divined
Without the name her personal mystery.
It made it seem as if there must be something
She must have missed herself. So they were married,
And took the fancy home with them to live by.

They went on pilgrimage once to her father’s
(The house one story high in front, three stories
On the side it presented to the road)
To see if there was not some special tree
She might have overlooked. They could find none,
Not so much as a single tree for shade,
Let alone grove of trees for sugar orchard.
She told him of the bookmark maple leaf
In the big Bible, and all she remembered
of the place marked with it—’Wave offering,
Something about wave offering, it said.’

‘You’ve never asked your father outright, have you?’

‘I have, and been Put off sometime, I think.’
(This was her faded memory of the way
Once long ago her father had put himself off.)
‘Because no telling but it may have been
Something between your father and your mother
Not meant for us at all.’
‘Not meant for me?
Where would the fairness be in giving me
A name to carry for life and never know
The secret of?’
‘And then it may have been
Something a father couldn’t tell a daughter
As well as could a mother. And again
It may have been their one lapse into fancy
‘Twould be too bad to make him sorry for
By bringing it up to him when be was too old.
Your father feels us round him with our questing,
And holds us off unnecessarily,
As if he didn’t know what little thing
Might lead us on to a discovery.
It was as personal as be could be
About the way he saw it was with you
To say your mother, bad she lived, would be
As far again as from being born to bearing.’

‘Just one look more with what you say in mind,
And I give up’; which last look came to nothing.
But though they now gave up the search forever,
They clung to what one had seen in the other
By inspiration. It proved there was something.
They kept their thoughts away from when the maples
Stood uniform in buckets, and the steam
Of sap and snow rolled off the sugarhouse.
When they made her related to the maples,
It was the tree the autumn fire ran through
And swept of leathern leaves, but left the bark
Unscorched, unblackened, even, by any smoke.
They always took their holidays in autumn.
Once they came on a maple in a glade,
Standing alone with smooth arms lifted up,
And every leaf of foliage she’d worn
Laid scarlet and pale pink about her feet.
But its age kept them from considering this one.
Twenty-five years ago at Maple’s naming
It hardly could have been a two-leaved seedling
The next cow might have licked up out at pasture.
Could it have been another maple like it?
They hovered for a moment near discovery,
Figurative enough to see the symbol,
But lacking faith in anything to mean
The same at different times to different people.
Perhaps a filial diffidence partly kept them
From thinking it could be a thing so bridal.
And anyway it came too late for Maple.
She used her hands to cover up her eyes.

‘We would not see the secret if we could now:
We are not looking for it any more.’

Thus had a name with meaning, given in death,
Made a girl’s marriage, and ruled in her life.
No matter that the meaning was not clear.
A name with meaning could bring up a child,
Taking the child out of the parents’ hands.
Better a meaningless name, I should say,
As leaving more to nature and happy chance.
Name children some names and see what you do.

And here’s one I wrote:

Tapped

 

promises on the edge of spring
hinge on perfect timing
            too late –  nothing
            too soon – nothing

results may vary

boil long enough
            and something sweet results
unless it’s already been sucked dry
breath expelled
knocked out
replaced with a long, empty sigh

no money back guarantee
no time back guarantee
nothing promised on this edge
            of holes or scars
            or useless
            pain 

return unused portion
if anything is left
tie it up and wrap real tight 

you pay for shipping

some can wait until midnight
   or next year
and start all over again
it all shifts back to zero

others remain drained of
            anything sweet

and

            left with

            nothing

 

© prasanta March 2017

 

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