Sugaring

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The best part of this last year has been having the opportunity to be more connected to nature.  Seeing the river change from a frozen block of ice to a super flowing stream. Being in tune to the phases of the moon and looking up at the sky at night, seeing stars and planets illuminating the sky. Hearing the birds chirping their first songs of spring, and watching the seasons shift and change…..I could go on and on.

Being able to take part in “Sugaring,” collecting maple sap and processing it into syrup has been another way to connect with the natural world. Checking on the trees each day has been an opportunity to track the change of seasons and be part of something fun and exciting with others. I’ve felt like a child during this process, learning something completely new with wonder and awe.  I feel so lucky to have been here for this!

When we started sugaring we had to wade through 3 feet of snow on the ground. Now the snow has melted, streams are running, the landscape has completely changed, and the trees are surprisingly still dripping. Sugaring season is almost over, but just last night we boiled down the second batch of syrup. And so it continues, until it ends of course.

IMG_2185 We spent a day tapping all of the maple trees. We used a hand drill and then hammered the taps in and hung all the buckets. The next day, many of us adopted trees.This is Lady Tree, one of my adopted sugaring trees. IMG_2204This is Francine. Max named her and I liked it. I would spend the next two weeks with Lady Tree and Francine, collecting sap daily. When we started collecting there was up to 3 feet of snow on the ground.IMG_2205IMG_2207IMG_2208Some days there would be more sap to collect than others. Generally the amount of sap the tree produces has to do with weather conditions. Good temperatures for sugaring is 40’s in the days and 20’s in the nights. IMG_2209We would collect from our trees daily into these buckets and then bring them down the hill.IMG_2218Once all the buckets were collected, they would be put in a big garbage pale and brought down by truck to the Patneaude shed-soon to be Sugar Shack, for the boiling process.IMG_2249The sap would be poured through this strainer, and then into the container below which would filter down into the arch for boiling,IMG_2243IMG_2242IMG_2231We would stand around and watch sap boil for hours. It’s kind of like watching a fire. The arch would be going almost every night that sap was collected. Someone has to watch the fire. IMG_2230IMG_2225This is Jason. He is responsible for bringing all of the materials and experience for sugaring. He was the one who put in solid hours feeding the fire and watching the sap boil. IMG_2252This is Aaron. He’s responsible for bringing sugaring to Karme Choling and coordinating the whole process. He also logged in solid hours of watching sap boil.IMG_2227The whole point of the arch is to boil down the sap into syrup, so there was always tons of steam. IMG_2256This is boiled off foam, it has toxins and things that you don’t want in your syrup.IMG_2270I forget what this spoon was for. Maybe to check sugar levels from the arch.IMG_2303Once the sap has been boiled down enough, it is brought up to the house to finish it off. We started with approximately 50 gallons of sap and ended with 4 gallons of syrup for the first run. Those numbers could be completely wrong, but you get the idea. A lot of sap, a little syrup. That’s why maple syrup is so expensive!IMG_2307Testing the syrup with a hydrometer, we are looking for a reading of 32.IMG_2317Big moment! We are ready to roll. I was beyond excited. Throughout the whole process and especially at this point.IMG_2322Doesn’t that look like amazing maple syrup? It tasted like a amazing syrup!IMG_2335Filling little log cabins of maple syrup!IMG_2344IMG_2350Filling little maple leaves!IMG_2355After our first run, we thought the season was just about over since the weather was warming and the conditions were no longer ideal for sugaring. We had a few days where the trees didn’t produce much, but then they started up again. As long as there has been sap, we have been collecting.IMG_1553We are now on the second run.  Look at how the landscape has changed! All the snow is gone and it officially feels like spring.IMG_1564But the trees have still been producing. Once the sap turns yellow, it’s no longer good for syrup. It’s hard to tell here, but some of the buckets have clear sap and some we have collected was more yellow, which incidentally tasted a lot sweeter.IMG_1555Here’s Francine in the Springtime.IMG_1556Here’s Lady Tree!IMG_1557These are all the buckets that we collect each day.IMG_1563It’s hard to believe that just 10 days ago, this whole area was covered in snow.

We’re not in California anymore Toto!

 

 

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Still Winter

IMG_2293When I arrived at Karme Choling, it was still winter.However as I write this post, there has clearly been a shift to spring. The ice banks are breaking and the river is flowing fast, the pond is more than half melted and the bright orange fish that have been under the ice are crowding the edges soaking in the sun. You can feel the sunshine warming your face and body and the spring breeze is fresh and crisp.

When I arrived in Boston on March 26th the temperature was resting somewhere in the 20’s. I had just arrived from California where Spring was full-blown. The sun had been shining and everything was glowing green. On the bus ride up to Vermont I found myself in a different world altogether. There were continued signs of winter with frozen lakes and landscapes, icicles frozen in time on the rocks lining the side of the road. At Karme Choling there was 3-4 feet of snow piled high all around the grounds. It was like I back tracked in time. I suppose in some ways I wasn’t ready for spring yet, like the animals in hibernation. I would have to wait it out a few more weeks before I got to experience the beginnings of a second Spring.

 

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Colorado to California

This is what it looked like the day I left Colorado. 14 degrees and snowing. It seemed like 0 visibility, but clearly I don’t know about these things. We took off without a hitch.

IMG_1392 IMG_1393 IMG_1395 That’s my bright turquoise suitcase on the bottom of that stack. It’s ridiculous. But you truly can spot it out of a crowd easily. I had to find a bag that was light enough for me to max out my 50 pounds allotted for checked bags. It’s a back breaker. That’s what happens when you have to pack a suitcase for 4 months and 3 seasons of weather.

The transformation of sky and landscape to California was spectacular. Right above all that snow and fog was a clear blue sky. It’s always there. It’s always crystal clear above the weather in our lives.

IMG_2146IMG_2143IMG_2155IMG_2142IMG_2154IMG_2156IMG_2158IMG_2160IMG_2159IMG_2161IMG_2165IMG_2167IMG_2168And just like that, I’m back in California. Welcome home to me! And to my surprise (I don’t know why), I was transported directly from winter, to spring.

IMG_1430IMG_1446IMG_1441 (1)IMG_1442IMG_1445IMG_1435IMG_1432IMG_1471IMG_1473Everything here is green and blooming! How lucky am I? Plus, I get to be reunited with this one!

IMG_1438IMG_1469This is Rosie. I haven’t seen her since July. She was just 3 months old when I met her. Shortly after, my mother was in the hospital for a month and it was left to me to try to train her. Now she’s a year old and continues to be unbelievably cute. She could definitely use some more training, but I love her! So does my mom’s cat.

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Here’s some family time. I ripped these off from my sister. This is from dinner last night, that’s my dad and my nephew Max…

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So that’s what’s happening here. Dogs and cats. Lots of springtime. Watching 30 Rock and Lord of the Rings and the Bourne Identity series, again. Knitting, Brainstorming for private practice website. Visiting friends, hanging with family. Dreaming of tropical vacations. You know, really stressful stuff!

Trust me, I’m appreciating every moment of it!

Perspective

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Taking a step back, getting perspective, and taking a bigger view is an incredibly helpful thing to do. And surprisingly difficult sometimes.

I had the opportunity to change things up for a couple of days and what a world of difference that makes. I think that’s why I am in love with freedom right now. It’s such a gift to be able to do something different when you feel like it.

When I left Vermont I felt unsure about what my next steps would be, and I still do. But I told myself to pay attention to any auspicious signs to help me along my way. Today I unexpectedly got one. I’m still not clear about what I will do, but I have a better sense and continue to learn to value myself and ask for what I want instead of assuming I won’t get it. I do this in some aspects of my life more than others. What do we have to lose in this life by asking for what we want? And why is that so hard for some of us?

So I move forward with a fresh perspective, renewed appreciation for where I’m at in my life right now and darker shade of hair.

I got this one from a Facebook friend, pretty good Mr. Jung!

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
~ Carl Jung

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Pain and Confusion

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You can’t go through life without it. And my life is no exception. I am very familiar with these old friends.

The last few weeks I have managed to spiral into a confused state, somewhat losing my center. I’ve been having a hard time listening to my heart, or maybe I listen, but I’m not really hearing what it’s telling me. I do that sometimes. I actually know something both intuitively and consciously, but I choose to make a different choice, because I want to see what will happen. That’s all fine, until I find myself surprised by an outcome that I really already knew. It’s like I try to trick myself back into ignorance. But once you have some sort of knowledge or wisdom about something, pretending ignorance just doesn’t really work. And the only person who suffers is you.

Sometimes it’s fun being a lost and confused 38 year-old. Sometimes it’s painful. This week it’s tipped towards painful.

I was at a party the other night and someone read my tarot cards. I got a bunch of cards I didn’t like. You probably wouldn’t like them either. But I noticed how bummed out I was at that idea that “bad” things might occur. I’m still grasping and hoping for everything to be wonderful and everything to work out. But that’s not how life is, is it? I spoke with a friend who gave me the same gentle reminder from her own experience. It’s not that there won’t be challenges and hard times, but that you will be able to relate with them as they are, when they happen. And really, the more they happen, the more you have opportunities to build confidence and trust in your ability to see them through. So I remind myself of this as I have a particularly painful day. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just life. And as my other friend reminds me, it’s free and well favored.

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Looking at the sky is always helpful, and this:

“Grant your blessings so that my mind may be one with the dharma

Grant your blessings so that dharma may progress along the path

Grant your blessings so that the path may clarify confusion

Grant your blessings so that confusion may dawn as wisdom”

-The Four Dharmas of Gampopa

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The End of Dathun and the Beginning of a New Year

Stupa in the Snow

Stupa in the Snow

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New Year's Aspirations

New Year’s Aspirations

Dathun is over and it’s a new year. Somewhere in the middle of it all, 2014 rolled through. I spent a lovely New Year’s Eve offering aspirations to the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya. See that one in the bowl that says “Patience with Uncertainty,” that one is not mine, but I think it’s a pretty good one, don’t you? Thank you to whoever wrote it.

I’m still at Shambhala Mountain Center and the the past few days I have been in basic recovery mode occupying myself mostly with breakfast, lunch and dinner, and some trips off the land. It’s been a nice reprieve to be able to stay here while working on the next plan. I find myself in the now familiar “in between,” waiting to see what will arise. All is up in the air and the practice of living in transition the last few months comes in handy at times like these. This is a continual practice of being patient, listening to my heart, and trusting my instincts. Easier said than done. I am definitely lost in some confusion right now, but I have a few options and I do trust that things will become clear…at some point.  In the meantime I get to listen to the wind howl and gaze at the moon.

White Ashe Moon

White Ashe Moon

Sun in Clouds

Sun in Clouds

Sacred Studies Building, Where I Spent the Last Month

Sacred Studies Building, Where I Spent the Last Month

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On the Path

On the Path

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From Colorado, with Love

IMG_2013The best gift this year has been to be completely removed from the holiday season.

The mountains are covered with snow, but I have not seen a Christmas tree, I have not heard Christmas music, and have not been a store since it has had its holiday makeover. And to my surprise, I have not experienced a sense of longing for any of it! If you haven’t heard from me this year during the holidays, you are not alone. No one has. And it definitely doesn’t mean I don’t love you, because I do!

I am feeling great appreciation for the space and stillness of the mountains while sending much love to all of those enjoying celebrations with family, friends and loved ones. I am grateful for all those who have touched my life, whether for a small moment or for many years. I am especially appreciative for family and friends who have offered support over the last year on my complete and utter exploration of groundlesness in almost every aspect of my life.

What was a seemingly midlife crisis has turned into a midlife adventure, and for this change in perspective I am beyond grateful. It has been 8 months since I left my job and life in Los Angeles, and took a leap into the unknown.  It’s hard to believe that this much time has gone by and I can assure you that not once have I regretted my decision. Not once. I still don’t know where I will land, or what I will be doing in the next few months, but I am truly enjoying the experience of living whole heartedly, for perhaps the first time ever. I don’t think I can ask for a whole lot more, and I wish for you the same. Happy Holidays!

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May you enjoy happiness and the root of happiness. May you be free from suffering and the root of suffering.

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