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Maple Moon

March 20 is the Spring Equinox heralding the season the Abenaki call Maple or Sap Moon. It is a time for gratitude, a maple thanksgiving. It arrives just as the hunger and hardships of winter begin to wane and we yearn for the festive gatherings amidst the steamy warmth of the sugarhouse. The Equinox measures the balance of equal hours of daylight and evening. We sense relief in the convergence of many welcome blessings - the Equinox, the thaw, daylight savings, flocking Robins, and sweet maple abundance. Who doesn’t love sugaring season? It is a beloved multi-generational cultural food celebration. Maple trees are a big part of what has made Vermonter’s known worldwide. We share renewing life forces in this “spring tonic”, maple syrup, while practicing forest stewardship. The Maple Moon festivities of today began as a cornerstone of Abenaki foodways and land-based traditions. The sap run was received as a sacred life force, as medicine from the Creator. Collectively it was boiled down into crystallized sugar patties and distributed among the community. The Abenaki later shared with settlers their methods for respectfully harvesting the first wild spring forest food of the year. If you are lucky in your forest ramblings you might have come across very old mother trees known to provide sustenance to the younger generation of saplings by delivering nutrients through their root system. Mother trees care for the more vulnerable of the species. A community of Maple trees might mingle with other forest tree species such as Birch, Beech and Pine. A fascinating recent discovery about trees reports that tree species support other species - not just their own! That means that Maple, Birch, Beech, and Pine all “give away” and tend to each other by sharing food and information, such as when an insect or disease is entering the habitat. A sophisticated underground mycelium communication network stretches for miles and miles. These selfless servants hidden beneath the forest floor lay bare the interconnectedness between all of us - as the past year has so emphasized, hammered home, awakened us. From the Abenaki and all those Vermonters before us who have tended the maple forest we have inherited the sugar gatherings that lift us up from the winter days of diminished sunlight. The forest pours out its cleansing tonic in buckets and we cherish the fragrance, sweetness, and hours gathered around the fire supping precious amber drops distilled from the sap. When trees have abundant food they share it with neighbor trees. The Maples withhold not their sap. May we mimic the forest microbiome - be tonic for one another, be selfless in sharing resources, strengthen the vulnerable in our communities, and create a year to remember that follows one we will never forget. ~JoAnne Denee Gatherings on the Land Educator

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