Maple Syrup and COVID-19

606 contributor Ben Wideman shares thoughts on the work of this moment:

A few weeks ago my family was in Ontario helping my parents with their annual maple syrup-making season. Ideally, maple sap is collected each day, then boiled for several hours, evaporating much of the water content and leaving behind delicious maple syrup. Their process is labor-intensive, involving near-daily collection from the buckets hung across 10 acres of maple trees, tending the fire below the evaporator, watching the syrup so that it does not cook too quickly or get scorched, and then filtering and bottling the finished product. If spring arrives too soon, the sap starts displaying off-flavors and the short window of maple syrup season ends up being even shorter than expected. The weather can also be too ideal, providing more maple sap than the evaporator’s size or heat can handle. Despite these many struggles, there is something deeply satisfying with seeing and tasting the finished product.

Watching my parents was a reminder of how much the pace of their lives is dictated by syrup season. They are at the mercy of the seasonal weather and reaction of the maple trees, as they try and find a rhythm. Their choice to engage in this process each year is one that they must fully embrace in the moment, or it ends up being too massive of a burden.

From a distance I wonder how they keep up day after day, without much of a rest. I notice that they depend on their community to help with this work. Sometimes the best thing that their support system offers is a willingness to simply be present – to have long and deep conversations filling endless hours while the syrup reaches its desired consistency. My parents find peace when they pause long enough amid the busyness to remind themselves that this is only temporary.

Observing this intentional process and community support this week made me wonder what we might glean for our new COVID-19 reality as faith communities. Like the maple syrup season, we’ve been brought into a new pace of life, which at times feels confining and restrictive but also a part of something that will hopefully be for the better. I find myself thinking about the ways we might support each despite our disconnected spaces, extending grace to each other as we try and discern what a new kind of balance and health looks like in this ongoing pandemic.

I’m glad my parents have found ways to navigate the intensity of maple syrup season over the years. Perhaps we too will discover God’s peace if we pause long enough to remind ourselves that this too is only temporary.


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