Woody emerged from the woods behind the barn, which seemed appropriate.
My dog Milo, who had not seen Woody in a year, barked nervously at this intruder emerging from the forest until Woody called his name.
“Oh yeah, that’s right,” Milo remembered, “the guy who sneaks around behind the maple trees.”
Woody had come to see about tapping my trees and of course I said it was alright. Woody hangs buckets on a few of my oldest maple trees and I get a big jug of syrup out of the deal. But this year, it is less certain. The days are too warm and the nights are not freezing. Without the freezing nights, the sap won’t flow and there will be no maple syrup this season.
“Have you ever seen a winter like this?” Woody inquired. I had to admit I had not.
The local church youth group makes most of their annual budget tapping trees, a few trees here and a few there all over the community, until they end up with an astonishing haul of sap which they boil down, bottle, and sell to parishioners and neighbors. The youth group leader is worried. No buckets are hanging yet. No sap is flowing.
The sugar shack men, who sit long hours watching sap boil down to one fortieth its volume, are checking the long term weather forecasts and making dour prognostications but nobody knows for sure. If the trees bud out, they say, it will be too late and there will be no syrup this year. If the trees bud out and then it freezes, that will be bad for the orchards. They watch their thermometers and compare notes.
“Strange weather,” the sugar shack men agree.
This winter that never became a real winter is now becoming a spring that is not a normal spring. It is unsettling for the sugar shack men and me. We expect the seasons to follow some sort of reasonable order and have an expected outcome. March is the month when winter storms come and they blow over. We do not get comfortable in a March thaw because we have learned that March is a month of changes and change is the norm. Every March, snow falls and then it melts. The weather warms and freezes again. The sap flows and gallons are distilled into sweet amber pints. Then the cycle repeats the following year.
My expectations of love are similar. I expect love to follow some sort of time honored principles. I expect it to look and conduct itself in a certain way. Even though it is at times tumultuous, I am confident that love has a season of its own and follows rules that are bigger than me and more lasting. Even if there is a temporary disruption, I reason, love will return. I expect that love, given enough time, will ultimately distill to a sweet nectar.
Instead, I find that love does not look or behave the way I expect this season. In this strange weather, I am looking for signs of a return to the sweet and familiar. As unsettled and speculative as the sugar shack men, I’m making my own prognostications which vary by the hour.
The sound of geese flying low woke me this morning before the sun was up. I stepped outside and looked at the moon still hanging in the sky. A strong wind was blowing from the south. I stood in my pajamas and felt a warm March wind blowing in my face.
Till next time,