Madness in March -- by Jane Kelley

No wonder there is madness in March. The sap is running! This is not a political comment, it really is.

Toward the end of last summer, when the sugar maple still had its bright red leaves, it stored a lot of starch in its wood. The leaves fell. So did the snow. 

At the first hint of warmth, that starch is transformed into sucrose. The tree's roots suck up water from the soil. That water forces the sugary sap up toward the dormant buds. The sap will keep running for almost six weeks, until the warm weather causes the buds to open and all the sweet liquid has risen up through the tree.

The Native Americans discovered that if you make a cut in the bark, the sap oozes out. Each tree can spare about a gallon, without suffering too much damage. But it will take anywhere between 40 and 90 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.

That sounds about right for the writing process.

Ideas accumulate­­ over a long winter. (See all our hibernation posts last month.)

A thaw starts a rush of sugar straight to the head. This surge of inspiration is the madness. 

Then all the sap that has been gathered must be boiled down. Some people use fancy machines. Others, like my brother, put a kettle on an outdoor fire and keep it boiling for hours and hours. The excess water is boiled away––rewriting the story reveals its essence. Then there is a final filtering to get rid of dirt and bugs––otherwise known as editing.

The writer at work -- with her mother and her brother.

At long last, we have made a small amount of liquid gold. 

Which is also called a book


  1. More reasons why March is my favorite month...

  2. Living now in Indiana, I had my first-ever experience of seeing trees tapped for maple sap to be turned into maple syrup, something I've wanted to do ever since I read Miracles on Maple Hill as a child. If there's anything that makes a person believe in miracles, or magic, this is it.


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