Adventures in the Sugar Bush

It seems like everyone’s covid time is strange but in different ways.  Take for instance, my daily life compared to that of my husband’s.

 Jim teaches middle school students. From 8 to 3 he herds all the young people in his charge into some semblance of socially distanced order. His students wear masks and sit at desks set in straight lines and separated by the requisite six feet. Whereas in year’s past he stayed in his classroom and students travelled from one room to the next, this year all his students stay in their homeroom seats while he moves from classroom to classroom.

He has a big cart he hauls around the building, but some things are impossible to move.  Right now his classes are learning about the Lewis and Clark expedition. This means he had to make an enormous map of the expedition route for each of the classrooms he travels to instead of just one for his classroom.

Jim thinks it is harder for his kids to stay in place than for him to be moving.  This enforced sitting around is driving his charges bananas, and he is very sympathetic with their plight. You can’t teach middle school students for thirty years without noticing they like to move, jostle each other, talk nonstop and never sit in orderly rows.

Recess would seem to suggest a break in the routine but not so much. We have so much snow that even recess is a challenge. The kids wade through snowdrifts to get to designated areas where they are still not supposed to jostle each other.  None of these constraints come naturally to any of us and most especially not to middle school students. For Jim, policing all this separation while wearing a mask has required a well evolved sense of humor and a constantly strained voice.

Meanwhile, I see few people. I do not spend much time in the office when the staff is there. Everyone in the office is masked and socially distancing and the addition of me crowds the space. Instead I do my jobs in off hours when the room is empty. Outside, I am also on my own.  

Take for example this week. As maple sugaring season begins, life finds me in the sugar bush with just my hand drill, sap buckets, taps, hammer, boots with crampons and of course, Sheba.

Here’s how my solo tapping went yesterday. Right off the bat I tried to navigate a deep snowdrift of icy, crusty packed snow. Immediately one foot sunk in snow up to the top of my leg while the other stayed level with the top of the drift. This was a surprisingly hard position from which to fight my way free.

As I considered my situation, I recalled my grandfather’s favorite expression, “When you fall through the ice with your snowshoes, your troubles she just begun.” I mused on this quote for a while wondering if my grandfather had ever actually worn a pair of snowshoes. After all, he grew up in Montclair, NJ. I also considered rather belatedly that the sensible choice of snowshoes would have improved my situation and perhaps prevented the predicament I was in, because I actually had snowshoes and knew how to use them. Fat lot of good this was doing me with them on the front porch and me alone in a sugarbush.

Well, not entirely alone. There was Sheba, somewhere or other. Like a bullet train, she glanced at one legged me then took off at top speed towards the deep woods. Squirrel sightings do that to her. At the time I consoled myself that she wouldn’t have been much help anyways being about the size of a loaf of bread. But misery does love company, and I was feeling a bit miserable as I discovered muscles in my leg above ground that I never knew I had.

So how challenging was my predicament?  Let’s just say that when I eventually got home to share my story with Elizabeth, she told me a tale of someone being buried alive in an avalanche, and I felt I could better understood how this could happen than when I awoke that morning. 

Slowly, slowly I worked my leg up and out, but it was a struggle. Did I mention the Anglo Saxon swear words I used? Another thing I pondered: If you swear in the woods and nobody is there, do you make any noise? This is something we may never know. 

Anyways, once free I had a very happy morning. First I stomped down paths from maple tree to maple tree to make later sap collection easier. Then I visited with each maple tree friend. Before I drilled a hole, I asked each tree’s permission to tap and also asked the tree to help me choose where I should tap. I had arranged to have the whole morning to tap the trees, and I found myself taking my ease with each hole I drilled and each tree I tapped. Yes, there was some tree hugging.

After this bizarre year, I found myself particularly grateful for the company of these trees. I have been tapping them for 25 years, but never before did I do it as the solo person. Usually we tap trees in a clutch of family. Jim does most of the hole drilling, and someone else, usually me, hands him a tap to hammer in and bucket to hang. We go from tree to tree with him the “muscles from Brussels”.  Other accompanying family members suffer to drill a tree for the photo op but then tend to do things like sunbathe in the snow or climb a tree or two.  It’s all very festive and noisy. 

This year was very quiet.  Well except for the seven minutes of cursing in the snowdrift.  I felt the presence of the trees more acutely, and this was good. In the maples’ palpable company, I thought a lot about how covid had slowed me down so that I noticed things like this more.  I also appreciated that I felt relaxed at the very slow pace of my tapping.  The snow stomping to weave a trail from tree to tree took a long time and the drilling even longer. With the hand drill I have to lean my whole body weight into the drill to get it to work and even then it goes at a snail’s pace.  Office goddess Vicki noted that her family uses an electric drill for their maple sugar operation. This moves the job along much faster and probably means fewer sore muscles too, but this year it was okay that it took what an impatient me would have described as “forever.”

 At least for yesterday morning, a more patient me prevailed.  I suspect the constraint of covid helped me find this patience. Will I have it any other day? Well, who knows…. Let’s recall that my last blog was titled “Stir Crazy,” and my mood on that day was one of wanting to get in a car and drive anywhere to do anything. But yesterday was a bit of maple magic moment …. the kind of magic moment that was a heck of a lot easier for me to experience alone in a sugarbush than for Jim in a sea of squirming, blurting, mask wearing preteens.

All in all, I returned to the farm with both legs and a grateful heart.

Tools of the trade: Hand drill, Sheba and Jim’s favorite hammer ( don’t tell him I borrowed it)
Tree climbing in full swing during a previous sugaring season
How we usually employ Jim (note that during this sugaring season there is virtually no snow)
One of my favorite maple sugaring photos because of the rings formed by a falling drop
A few years back with the “muscles from Brussels” and Sheba. She’s the constant.

Stir Crazy

As snow, sleet and icy rain falls here and across much of the country, the term “stir crazy” comes to mind.

We’ve had a lot of snow at the farm. Unwilling to let this keep us from the woods, Elizabeth and I have punched a two mile loop on our favorite trail. This loop has helped to keep us from going stir crazy. We awoke at dawn today, examined the new precipitation and resolved to punch a path again once it stops snowing at the end of the work day.

With the phrase “stir crazy” ringing in my head, I decided to research where this phrase comes from.  As best I can gather, “stir” comes from the Romani word for prison “sturiben”. Beginning in the 19th century, “stir” became a slang word for Newgate prison, a notorious horror of a London prison with “stir crazy” being a state of succumbing to prison-induced insanity.

By the mid 1850’s the English referred to being “in stir“ or “out of stir” to indicate being in or out of jail with additional terms like “stir crazy” and “stir hustler” ( one who has mastered the art of incarceration). Eventually these terms spread to North America while “stir crazy” morphed into a term indicating a general feeling of confinement.

This definition brought me up short, reminding me of how many people have faced and continue to face much more confining situations than what I face right now.

I have always read a lot of books but never more so than during this time of covid. In between tracking down new reads, I have dipped back into many of my childhood favorites. I just reread Witch of Blackbird Pond, This is the story of a young woman, Kit, who was born and raised in Barbados but must take shelter with her aunt and uncle in rigidly puritanical Wethersfield, CT in the 1680’s when her grandfather guardian dies.

 Adjusting to life in puritan New England would drive anyone stir crazy. Everything Kit says, does or wears is sinful according to her uncle and the prevailing culture. By necessity, she succumbs to a life of sitting silently by the hearth, sewing with her cousins night and day. The one break in routine is the weekly trip to church, an outing in which a shivering congregation is verbally abused for eight hours by the local minister. The grim humorlessness of her life is broken only when, taking a break from weeding her uncle’s onions, she discovers a shunned and branded Quaker woman living in isolation near Blackbird Pond.  Her friendship with this woman eventually gets Kit tried as a witch. Since its YA fiction, she and the magnificent “witch” manage to avoid death and Kit also miraculously succeeds in escaping the drudgery of her life at her uncle’s house by marrying a young Saybrook, CT sea captain whom she met onboard ship on her way to Wethersfield.

Another YA fiction I reread was by this same enlightened author, Elizabeth George Speare. Calico Captive opens in nearby Charlestown, NH. The book is based on the true story of settlers taken captive by Abenaki Native Americans in 1754 and marched to Montreal where they were sold into slavery. One of the things I love about this book is that Speare takes her readers on a journey  from the prevailing culture of 1957 when the book was written to a much deeper understanding, empathy and respect for Native Americans.  Her heroine, Miriam, has many of the prejudices of her day (ones that lingered into 1957 and beyond). Kit’s eyes are opened in fits and starts to another world view and so too the reader’s eyes.

And that is exactly why I am so grateful for books right now. Most evenings find me with hot tea laced with Flower Essences and a book cracked open on my lap.  Books are helping me feel expansive in a contracted situation. We all need that, so I hope books are there for you too!  And if you have suggestions for what I should read next, send an email. I am all ears (with eyes wide open to new world views).

My current world view as Sheba and I begin to prune the apple and pear trees

Flower Essences, Community and Group Dynamics on New Earth

On her youtube channel, astrologer Pam Gregory eloquently describes tomorrow’s new moon in relationship to the Aquarian Age we now enter. She notes that six planets are currently in Aquarius including a conjunction between beneficent planets Jupiter and Venus. Pam explains that the last time there were this many planets in Aquarius was 1962 when seeds were sown both for now and also the 60’s with its forays into communal living.

Since listening to her talk on youtube, I have been thinking about how our reboot of that 60’s community energy could be about us creating even more harmonious community.

One of our former staff goddess, Patricia, lived in the commune Wooden Shoes in the 60’s. From her report and that of others I have talked to, the success and failure of the endeavor seemed to rise and fall on some very down to earth things.  Dirty dishes to be exact.

Nothing seems to have been more of a problem than people who did not do their dishes. Or take out the garbage.

Not doing your own dishes or being responsible for your own garbage is such a good example of a basic dilemma in groups. You can have a group of people in which most everyone is taking care of their own personal challenges in a way respectful to the group as a whole, and you can have one or two who are not doing this, and the entire group is deeply affected by these few individuals.  In understanding that each of us come to group settings wounded, how do we both manifest compassion yet also not allow people to have a hall pass on dumping their garbage on others?

The patriarchal model is being smashed apart right now and a good thing too. In patriarchy, top down authority was the norm. This meant we often experienced the sometimes desperate and mostly unsuccessful efforts of a leader to control group dynamic by any means.

Knowing full well this must have been a pattern I incarnated with, I found myself in a family of origin in which my leadership job was to cheer up the entire family with my happy disposition. I can think of many similar situations in my life in which I tried to drag a resistant group from anger, pessimism, fear and resistance towards something more open hearted and happy. After all, if I got the cheerleader job when I was a toddler, it had to be my job in every group dynamic, didn’t it? I can’t think of many instances in which this remotely worked, and I am grateful for the light bulb moment when I realized how this job assignment and my misunderstandings about it had colored so many of my group interactions to the detriment of all.

Let’s face it, most of us have been in group situations in which one or more persons are making it a hell for everyone else. Too often all efforts to shift the dynamic flounder as we all fall into the dynamics of that first group we were in, our family of origin.

As Uranus squares Saturn and continues to dismantle patriarchy all year, I can think of very few top down structures that serve any positive end or should survive. In school structures, elders are needed to model for young people a way to harmoniously exist in a group. And bless them for this largely thankless work. But as the rest goes, good riddance.  This leaves me with the question, how do we exist in groups where there is no top down authority?

Going back to Pam’s video, she talks about quantum physics and the way that matter coalesces around frequency.  This reminds me of why Flower Essences are so powerful a tool in group dynamics as well as for individual use.  Flower Essences are all about raising frequency. As Pam points out, when you raise the frequency what manifests is of this higher vibration.

Many of you may recall the story of how the Green Hope Farm staff came to meditate together as a daily practice. It was 1993. We had put up 25 posters welcoming visitors to the gardens. Instead of the sprinkle of people we expected, up to a hundred people arrived each day.  There were four of us working in the gardens and all of us had a lot of other things going on. Overwhelmed, we found ourselves in a group dynamic of arguing about priorities. It was a situation in which we couldn’t possibly get everything done, but the arguing didn’t help.

The Angels suggested we meditate before we discussed anything, and they had us do our daily meditation in the Eight Garden where the 5D vibration of great light and harmony was grounded.  This combination of a high vibration space and a meditation where we temporarily laid down our ego transformed our group discussions and work together. Our fighting dialed down to practically nonexistent, and we arrived at priorities harmoniously. This was a very, very good thing because four people handling the maintenance of many gardens and hundreds of visitors was a very tall task.

Remembering this gave me insight into supporting group harmony as we go forward into this new paradigm of Aquarian co-creative creation.

Getting the support of 5th dimensional frequencies via Flower Essences or in some other way is very helpful. To mention again what Pam says, “matter coalesces around frequency.” This mean sitting in a room spritzed with high vibration Flower Essences and collectively seeking an intention to raise our vibrations is a very powerful way to manifest a group working in harmony.

For those who don’t welcome the higher frequency, it will be uncomfortable to be in the vibration and they will either make the inner adjustment to raise their vibration into harmony with the higher vibration of the group or they will leave the group. No top down authority is needed or coercion of any sort.

This has been such a good truth for me to remember as my initial life training was that everyone had to be on the happiness train and it was my job, by any means, to try and get everyone onboard. What relief to let people make their own choices and not take responsibility for what these are.

Here are some possible Flower Essences to spritz in group settings. Remember Flower Essences never take away anyone’s free will about anything.  They are information about higher frequencies people can choose to tune to should they want to do so. People will either welcome the vibration or make their own choice to stay in lower frequencies, and it is not anyone’s responsibility but their own whatever they choose.

I am trying to keep this list short so as not to overwhelm you with choices, but a lot of Essences want to be mentioned. I have held it to 7, but if you get a prompting to go in a completely different direction, trust it, because so many other Flower Essences want to help with this shift in group dynamics on the planet!

Arbor Garden– The original Essence in our collection for feeling oneness and harmony with those here in incarnation and those who have passed across the veil. It remains one of our most loved remedies.

The Eight Garden– We have created the Eight Garden mandala twice to keep stocked in this Essence as it is a tremendous support for releasing low vibration ego garbage and bringing in the higher frequencies. It is particuarly effective as it holds a very strong energy supporting release as well as manifestation. And again, this was the garden we sat in when we worked on our group dynamics in 1993.

Purple Allamanda– Wow!  What a time to welcome a new Flower Essence but today, Purple Allamanda, a dynamo from St John that has sat quietly on the shelves for several years, announces its time has come. It tells me its I AM affirmation says it best, I AM unity consciousness, but do read what else it shares at this link.

Carouby de Maussane Pea A wonderful group harmonizer, this Pea Essence helps us participate in community as our most loving self. This is the part of ourselves that knows everyone is our spiritual equal, and we are all doing the best we can. When we have temporarily lost our way into competitiveness or backbiting, this Essence returns us to this gentler view.

Orange Lantana– This gem from Taiwan helps us experience groups as a blessing and delight like a wonderful night gathered around a campfire sharing from our souls.

Sweet Pea– Long beloved for its ability to help us get a good night’s sleep, Sweet Pea also has great strengths in supporting us to find a harmonious thread of connection with ANY group we find ourselves in.

Angelica– I have been thinking a lot about this plant as it’s blossom resembles Wild Parsley which is in the spotlight as a possible cure for covid. Here I mention Angelica for its great unifying energy which helps us know we are Divinity in a sea of Divinity with all of us equal because we are one.


 Today I want to say, “Congratulations!”

Congratulations because we are getting through this time. I am proud of us, navigating this enormous collective lesson together. There has been so much new to deal with, all in a framework of confining circumstances.  Some of these circumstances are rubbing off our sharp edges in a good way. Some of these circumstances are just wearing us down. What will remain awaits to be seen, but I am hopeful that we will be a kinder, more loving and open-hearted collective at the end of this. 

I am hopeful that isolation has helped us weary of polarizing each other in useless arguments and name calling. I am hopeful when we meet up again face to face we will glory in each other’s faces and not so much dwell on our differences. I am hopeful we will be so grateful for the chance to visit that we’ll not be so hell bent on finding the things we disagree about.

I see signs this edge rubbing has helped us already to find better manners and our best selves. The scene at my grocery store has gone from toilet paper free-for-all to love fest.  As I walked the aisles this morning, I heard many sweet exchanges between customers and staff.  The air hummed with a feeling of gratitude for something vaguely normal like pushing a cart through a grocery store with only four hundred reminders what six feet distance actually is.

One sign said it was the distance between one moose antler and another. Hmmmm  A fun fact but not exactly how I measure this distance, even after forty years in moose country!  

In any case, when we get to see only a few people in any given week, it’s hard to miss how precious everyone is regardless of their differences or maybe even because of them.

I am feeling grateful for pretty much everything these days, and it’s seems like you are too. What a gift to feel more gratitude for the simple things we took for granted a year ago. 

Lizzie and I take a walk very early every morning. Recently it’s been more of a snow stomping as we work to maintain a path through the deep snow of our woodland route. We always run into the same neighbors at the same place on our loop. I knew these neighbors to say hello to before the pandemic. We still don’t know each other well, but now we greet each other as old friends. Neighbors have become more precious than ever.  

And the mail! I greet the mail with a similar whoop of joy.  I have always loved letters. In the office we have always poured over your missives and read them aloud to each other. BUT NOW, we read them, then reread them, then hang them up to read again.  Small pleasures have become such big ones. I am not sure I will ever move through the world without a gratitude for everything. I hope not.

One letter came from a beloved in LA. Not only has her family experienced big economic challenges and extremely confining circumstances, but she went through her own perilous experience which she shared with us in a matter of fact manner that reflected her imperishable faith in life.

As an octogenarian, her hips are not as spry as her agile and expansive mind. She fell, far from her phone and could not get up. She knew a relative was coming to visit in a couple of days, and she knew she would have to lie there and just be until then. Three days it was.  This woman’s spiritual practice has long inspired me, but here in this hour, she reached deep into herself and proceeded through her days on the floor with calm, fearlessness, attention to all that was good in the world.  She kept her mind on the Light and the Light kept focused on her.

When I read her letter, I had to read it over and over. What a story. What an example to us all. When the going got beyond tough, she dug deep into herself and just kept going.  Not with self-pity or despair, but with a decision to reach into her inner resources and use them all. And she did. And she prevailed. I felt such a rush of gladness she was safe and such a rush of awe at the grace with which she moved through this experience.

And I feel that way about all of us. Who amongst us would have invited a pandemic into their lives? Nonetheless, we made peace with this uninvited guest and made the best of it. Yes, I hope the uninvited guest is packing bags to go, but won’t we all have gained some gifts from this time, not just war wounds? Won’t we all have stories to tell about the time of Covid? Won’t we all feel bonded by sharing this time together? Won’t we all have learned so very much about how much the chance to love each other matters? I think so.

As I finish this, I recall the Rumi poem, The Guesthouse

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

a joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows

who violently sweep your house

empty of all its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.