Posted by: Sue Spencer | February 28, 2008

The Sap is Running!

My plan for this gray Wednesday (February 27) had been to go upstairs and work on my sermon for Sunday week.  All that changed, however, when Bill came in with an announcement: The sap is running!  That meant it was time to drop everything else, grab some bright orange buckets, and head for the trees.

In fact, the sap was not only running – it was, in some places, overflowing the collection buckets. Down at “the lines,” where plastic tubing is used to link a stand of trees together, Bill said it was flowing like water from a faucet.

Our property has about 300 maples altogether; we’re tapping 95 of them right now. Some trees are quite close to the house, so several of us went on foot, taking a bucket for each hand. Bill, meanwhile, loaded his pickup with twenty buckets or so, and headed down the hill.

It’s a simple thing, harvesting sap from trees. Each maple has one or two taps driven into it, from which hang galvanized aluminum buckets. You gently slide the lid off the bucket, lift the bucket off the tap, and empty the sap into your collecting bucket. Then you replace everything, thank the tree for its gift, and go to the next tree.

So simple, and yet so astonishing. As I watch the sap flow, without noise and apparently without struggle, a deep hush settles over and around me. The sap runs clear and sweet – there’s nothing quite like a fresh, cold, cup of it – and the trees give so generously. How many times a day, especially in winter when the branches are bare, do I pass by stands of trees, heedless of the life flowing within?

For some reason, this thought brings to mind some favorite words of Howard Thurman, who tells us that “hope is the growing edge”:

“Look well to the growing edge. All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit…Look well to the growing edge!”

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