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Red Maple #1

The pond phenology path is littered with pine needles thrown by the Winterspring wind. I think of my daughter's small hands gripping the branch as I slip on the slush to check on Red Maple #1. She had called after me as I walked up the path the last time I went to check “Mama - can I come to work with you”? Off the snowy swing and up the path she ran to me, her five year old legs working hard and sinking with every step. I took her hand to trudge uphill and asked her if she thought Red Maple #1 had burst yet. She quietly said “No, it isn’t time yet. But let’s go see if the buds are swelling.” She pulled the branch down reverently and asked for my camera, proud that she was collecting data alongside the thousands of observers who are doing the holy work of documenting the effects of climate change across the planet.

I can’t give her any promises of what her life will be in this unpredictable world. But I can give her this: The bud is dormant and then it breaks. The robin leaves, and then comes home, and leaves again when the nights lengthen. The rabbit leaves tracks to follow in every season and the ripening fruit tells you that the butterfly fed and that her eggs are under a leaf somewhere, waiting for the right time to turn into something utterly new.

Red maple #1 is moving slowly out of dormancy this year. The swell is almost imperceptible today. This means we will have more time to collect sap, and it also means that the early-season bees may have a better chance at survival this year. I turn away from the pond path toward the sugar bush, to check on the sap buckets, delighted to have one more excuse to watch the golden light melt the snow. I will have a thousand worries for my children as they break, bloom, wither, and wait in the cold for the sun to return. But loneliness is not one of them.

Life offers itself to those who watch.



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