We're just passing through the window of the spring equinox here in the Hudson Valley of NY. We've been collecting sap water from our sugar maples for the last several weeks. Maple sugar trees in this region are often the first to bud, signaling the beginning of the Great Movement of Spring, the waking up of the trees and a collective reaching for the light. (What within you is reaching for the light? Read more here).
In order for the sap to flow, the night time temperature needs to be below freezing and the daytime temperature needs to be above freezing. This provides a kind of pumping action on the xylem of the trees that causes the sap to flow.
It reminds me of the way hydrotherapy works on the human body. You've heard of this, yes? An old nature cure remedy for chronic or acute joint inflammation, swelling, edema (or just an overall immune system boost) is alternating hot and cold water treatments. You can do either a local or full body application of hot water for three minutes, followed by 30 seconds of cold water, repeated 3x (always end in cold).
This alternating temperature, as hot as you can take and as cold as you can take, produces a pumping action on the circulation of the blood into and out of an area of the body. The hot water vaso-dilates or expands the blood vessels, bringing blood into the area. You visually see this as your skin turns red with the heat. The cold water then vaso-constricts the vessels, pushing out metabolic waste and inflammatory cell byproducts, essentially flushing the area out. As you repeat this 3x, you produce this pumping action that really helps to move lymph, massively improve circulation and speed healing time. I've seen it work so many times, it's one of my top recommendations for old chronic injuries, lymph swelling and joint pain. And you know what? It costs next to nothing, except for the good resource of water.
Give it a try and let me know what you think! (You can begin in the shower, alternating from hot to cold and back 3x. Or if you have a shower head that can be removed, this is an easy way to do a local treatment on a body part.)
I recently learned that it was the Iroquois Nation that first began tapping the maple trees for their sap. There's a Maple Tree Story told by Doug George-Kanentiio, an Akwesasne Mohawk and the vice-president of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge. As he writes "One of the characteristics of Iroquois life is to connect people with the natural world in intimate ways. It was the Iroquois who invented maple syrup (wah:ta oh:ses in Mohawk) and the technology which went into taking sap and making it into that most delicious of sweeteners. It is the maple which tells us that spring has come and it is time to celebrate." (Read more of Doug's story here)
As we've been tapping, I'm feeling my own blood quicken. My thoughts are running towards growing, envisioning plans for the garden, plans for the movement of my life, our families life, my work. I'm feeling into the ways that the roots and grounding of winter is providing the water for new growth at this time. I'm feeling into the importance of having a vision and a specific action plan for each step forward.
What new things will you plant this year? What will you be growing within yourself, within your family and your work? How will you nourish more of the sweetness and raise yourself up to the light?