On the Sap line – Day One
Up before the sun and the stars are still brilliant. Casseopiea in the Northeast. Red Mars still rising in the Southeast. The Big Dipper must be over my shoulder, behind the cabin roofline. But I’m just out for a pee – no serious stargazer here.
The sun first shines its rays over the brim of the third falls catching the rising mist in a golden whirl. I’m planted in my morning chair, java in hand, trying to scout back up through dreamland.
Later, doing business, chatting on the cell - the snow bank on the roof drips drips drips each drip a goodbye to winter. It’s a meditative drum song. drip drip drip. We’ve had an excellent Meditation teacher these past six weeks at the church. Alex Jones has been connecting with the God spot for over forty years through the inner channels. He encourages us to try a mantra to connect with our Joy. I choose “I love my life.”
I find this mantra helps me celebrate just how good things are – when they are good. It also helps me put the troubles into perspective. When things are less than “good” I say “I love my life” and it helps me step back and see.
Pound of bacon fried, then three of Millar’s Farm Fresh eggs fried in the fat sunny-side up. Three slices of Stricklands’ day old multi-grain big toast. I love my life. A chunk of Ivanhoe extra-old, a splash of last year’s homemade chilisauce. Finish off the pot of coffee with Kawartha Dairy cream. I love my life.
Make it out to the bush before noon. Without snowshoes I drop in to my knees in the soft wet white snowbanks. Even with the snowshoes I often drop a foot into the drifts. I’m towing an ice-fishing sled full of pails and spiggots; hammer and drill. It’s not long before my heart is pumping and my lungs are doing extra duty. But I’m a newly married man and heavy breathing is nothing new to my system. I love my life.
I get to the first maple. It's a mid-sized 40 year old, bark still transitioning from smooth to chapped. With thanks to the forest, thanks to the trees, an admiring word or two for the beauty of the maple; its wonderous ability to turn sunshine to syrup, and other such appraisals, the cordless drill finds a sweet spot and enters the tree’s hide. Right away the drill funnels juice. I put the ¼ inch bit in and enlarge the opening to spigot size and depth. As fast as I can tap the spigot in and put a pail on its hook, the drip drip dripping starts tapping that same rhythm into the metal pail. I fiddle a plywood lid onto the copper wire fastener and its on to the next. I love my life.
To have a church job that allows for my absence is such a blessing. I take these study weeks to feed my philosophers heart. I need empty time like a bell needs to be empty to ring. What a luxury to be employed to create good words and pass them on. I love my life.
The Mother is next. She’s the big producer. After all it’s her seeds that planted the stand around her. Two pails for her. Lots of compliments and good words. On to the next.
Last Sunday I preached on Judgment and Woe. How our minds battle on, wrestling with harsh scriptures in chase of the answers. Meanwhile Jesus tells us not to call anyone Reverend or Doctor or Father. He points instead to the Author of all. Beneath our feet are diamonds of hope planted deep in our souls. Precious unbreakable ancient stones. Within, there is the truth of an eternal love that is precious – as precious even as the enemy we must love.
At the fourth tree there’s no tree blood in the wound. The wood is dry, the sawdust blows away in the breeze. I forgot to thank her and compliment her. So I do. Then a trickle. I love my life. Communication responded to makes a circle complete.
The communion table set “even in the presence of mine enemies” where my greatest enemy becomes my greatest teacher. Nothing like a custody battle with an ex-spouse to teach us where the pain resides. If I can stop defending myself for an instant, I might learn something more about myself. I only can look in the mirror - but if I can see through the eyes of the one I’ve hurt - at my most ugly parts - I just might extend the compassion I give to others to the soul inside my own skin. Drip drip drip. What’s frozen begins to thaw.
While theology, science, and the politics of control serve to divide us into camps, the spirit gives us eyes to see and ears to hear what’s rumbling beneath the text. I love my life. I love my life. I love my life.
Some of the holes I drill in the Maples I meet are dry despite my coaxings so I don’t bother to tap in a spigot. If they aint’ got any to give – why beg? Maybe this particular tree needs the sap more than we do. No worries. There’s lots here. No need to get greedy.
While species are going extinct, while babies starve at the same drip drip drip pace, we argue and fight over turf big enough to hold my ego but not yours. The scientific method chops things down into categories. Judgment divides us into mine and yours. My truth becomes a smaller and smaller place.
After the first nine buckets hung I sit in the snow and rest. Having a sense of place provides the security of roots. That security allows me to reach up where the tree tops can see beyond the borders of my precious turf.
The diamond of our souls is a gift. I didn’t make it. I didn’t find it. It was always there and always will be. My world becomes larger, more ancient, universal. My essence is absolutely wonder full and unique and - whether I like it or not – so is yours. This is the ground beneath the communion table.
This bush is mostly spruce scattered everywhere. There’s no straight path through. White and Yellow Birch, Ash, White Pines, Cedar, Cherry, and Elm have found their place in the mix. The Maples are few and far between. I find them along the creek bed winding beneath the forty foot bedrock cliff. There are frozen waterfalls here and there. The frozen water is an opaque white as if these cliffs were milked for truth. The milk caught frozen for a time lasts only a season. But the cliff has been there since Adam and Eve danced naked.
While the truth of a joy, peace, and hope lies deeply buried in all creation. The surface truths we learn in the push and shove of suffering through season by season are so temporary. If I hoard my own safe self-directed truths, they will only turn sour. If I only roll my truths around and around with them like me who know what we know – then how is that the Jesus path? It’s when we bring our soured truths together that we can make cheese with them –like us - who are sure they have all they’ll ever need to know already.
Cheese goes perfectly with wine and bread at the table. Surely we are fed to take on what really matters – protecting this earth and all its inhabitants. Time passes while we chew. Drip drip drip.
Back on the deck. Twenty pails or so hung. The sun sets across the river. Rays of golden sap-coloured light reach through the bush to catch pine boughs and branches. I take out my drum – its frame made from discarded pews – and tap out that drip drip drip. Another day on the sap line awaits. I love, well, you know.