Other Writings

The Maple Tree

The following is a small piece of the Iroquois Creation Story, as told to Audrey by a woman who is a member of the Mohawk Nation, August 2004.

Sky Woman (Grandmother Moon) came to this world pregnant. She gave birth to Original Woman (Mother Earth). Original Woman ended up sacrificing herself in childbirth so that life on earth could begin.
After her death, Original Woman was placed in the ground:

  1. From her head grew tobacco that it might be burned and be the visible representation of our thoughts and prayers to the Spirit World (helpers) and the Great Mystery.
  2. From her heart grew the heart berry (strawberry) that we would have blood, family connections, seeds and a connection to the earth (natural world).
  3. From her body grew the Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash), the main sustenance of the Iroquois.
  4. From her lower body grew the Maple Tree. The Maple Tree provides us with sweet cleansing water.

The Maple Tree is the leader of all trees. It leads by example and shows the trees how to work with Mother Earth and the seasons – when the sap will flow, when to bud, when to unfurl, when to seed, when to color, when to fall and when to begin again. The only element that all life needs is water. The Maple stands to teach us to respect and care for our water, as it is a sacred gift. The Iroquois believe that each stand of maples has a head female and a head male tree. These two are often the oldest amongst the stand of trees.

To this day, the Iroquois recognizes and honors the Maple as a leader and holds a ceremony at tapping/syrup time to remember how important the Maple is to our life, how it came as a gift to the People from Mother Earth, Grandmother Moon, Sky World, and the Great Mystery.

Heart and Soul

Open the door, feed the fire
listen to the roar
feel flames singeing hair
listen to the roar
watch bubbles fold, steam billow
listen to the roar
smell sweet clouds of sugary ozone
listen to the roar
taste syrup dance across the tongue
listen to the roar
open the door, feed the fire
the heart and soul
listen to the roar

 C. King

March 2012

Mainline Droppings


Heavy wet snow freezes on mainlines waiting for the eventual flow.
Late night sunlight warms the dark line and drops its covering.
Wire ties split the falling load on the fresh snow below.

Dan O’Shaughnessy

Smoke Signals

 Chief Kenny Blacksmith, family friend and leader of Gathering Nations International, was telling stories the other night with his usual his good natured sense of humor. He was poking fun at himself and at the use of technology. “It’s all okay,” he said in his quiet, measured tone, “until everything crashes. Then you’re in trouble.” Kenny comes from a long line of trappers. “You know, we used to use smoke signals. They worked really well…” Then, he gave us his classic grin and continued telling us about his recent dreams and adventures.

I was glad to hear Kenny confirm the reliability of smoke signals. They are indeed quite useful, especially here in the Valley during sugaring season. When the nights are freezing and the days warm up, the question in our household is simple and singular: “Are they boiling yet?”

Thankfully, Lew and Audrey use wood to make their syrup. “Fifty cords this year,” Tom reminds me. It’s a lot of work of course to cut and stack the wood, something I am not involved in, but I certainly reap the benefits of in more ways than one. There is nothing like the romance of a fire on a cold, wet night and this is one big fire. “Listen to the roar,” as Cameron’s poem says. Feel the heat. Good stuff.

The sugarhouse holds a special draw for our family. It is simply, where we like to be. More often than not, we rely on smoke signals to get us there. We used to be able to look out our back window and up the hill to see the smoke. Joe often did that when he was little, “They’re boiling!” he’d announce, and if indeed it was sugaring season, there’d be a general scurry around the house as people gathered themselves to head up the hill. Now, the view is not so clear. The trees have grown up some and so has Joe. He’s old enough now, so we send him out as a scout. He takes his own little trail up the hill and if he doesn’t return, well, that’s a sign in itself.

The most common method however, is one we use after a day out in the world. There is a certain peace when you enter the Valley anyway, but when you are looking for smoke signals, it’s twice as fun. Climb the little hill before the farm, travel along the flats and look up towards Nebraska Knoll. Take a quick peek to see if Jake’s truck is in the driveway. If not, the plot thickens. Pass the barn, and sure enough, you did see clearly. That wasn’t a low cloud, that was sugar smoke.

Quick, head home and make your evening decisions. They go something like this:

“Everything else can wait for goodness sake. It’s sugaring season.”

Check with the team, “Who wants to go now, who wants to go later?” Some travel by vehicle. Some take the back trail. I prefer a nice walk up Falls Brook Road with fresh air, big pines, maybe some stars if night has fallen, and the sound of brook. Round the corner at the top of the hill and there it is, the brightly lit building, the smell of wood fire, smoke billowing from the chimney and sparks flying. Pass through the door and enter the flow of good work, good company, good life.

Laurie Best Silva

April 2012