Sweetness from the Trees

Most winter mornings, breakfast for me is oatmeal with maple syrup. This time of year, I think about how the Iriquois had a Maple Sugar Moon, and I marvel that a tree can provide such sweetness.

We have a maple in our front yard, but I’m not sure if it’s a sugar, and besides, sap from one tree, once it’s been cooked down, doesn’t make much syrup.

When I was in sixth grade, I was in what was called “The Outdoor Team”–a class that, along with the usual math, science, social studies and language arts, went on camping trips, hikes, cooked outside, and, in February and early March, tapped the maple trees in the woods on school property.

Every day, we’d go out into the snowy woods and empty the buckets, bring the sap inside, and cook it down. You always knew when the sap was running because our whole wing of the school would be redolent with the burnt sweetness of it as it simmered and thickened.

The season always culminated in a sleepover in the gym. We’d eat pizza on a Friday night and play volleyball, stay up until well past midnight, then awaken later Saturday morning for a pancake breakfast.

My grandmother had woods behind her house, and each year, my uncle taps the trees. I always said I wanted to go with him to do it. But now, it may be too late, as time has passed, he has aged, and I … I’ve had a full life, and sometimes, it’s hard to find time for everything you want to do, and the first thing that gets pushed aside for “later” may, at the time, seem small and unimportant. Now, with my grandmother gone almost two years, the time for walking in her woods, savoring the sweetness that comes from her trees, is past.

But each morning, even if it’s not foremost in my mind, these memories come to me as I eat my breakfast.

Explore posts in the same categories: Family and Friends, Food

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