Sweetness of spring

Grandfather Senomozi tapped out during maple sugaring season in Vermont. — Heather Wolfe

Spring! This week is the vernal (spring) equinox, equal length daylight and darkness, which marks the start of spring. Easter is a few weeks away, so it is still the season of Lent. The word Lent means spring, an apt name for a religious season that culminates in early spring. 

Easter is a moveable feast, meaning the date changes each year. How does one calculate the exact date of Easter? It will fall on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. This year’s spring equinox was Tuesday, March 19. The full moon that follows is Monday, March 25. The Sunday that follows that is March 31, which makes it the date of Easter in 2024. This multi-step calculation requires knowledge of both seasonal and lunar cycles, compared to the fixed feast of Christmas that always falls on December 25.

Another movable feast based on moon cycles and spring is sugaring season here in Vermont. The Western Abenaki, the native peoples indigenous to this place, named the fourth full moon (April’s) Sogalikas, or Sugar Maker Moon. My family, of European ancestry, goes back eight generations on the land I now steward, and there are four operational sugar shacks in my immediate neighborhood. When my dad was growing up, town meeting day (the first Tuesday in March when townspeople gather for discussion ahead of voting) was when you’d think about tapping out the maple trees. Nowadays, the sugaring season is starting (and ending) even earlier.

Sap runs when the days get above freezing but the nights are below freezing. The pattern of freezing and thawing temperatures will build up pressure that causes the sap to flow. Sugaring season ends when warmer days cause the leaf buds to unfold. That is happening earlier since climate change has shifted spring weather to arrive sooner than April’s Sugar Maker Moon and March’s town meeting. February has become the new month for my neighbors to tap sugar maple trees. 

I tap just one tree, whom I call Grandfather Senomozi (grandfather because the tree’s age is estimated to be around 200 years old, and senomozi, which is the Abenaki word for maple tree). Emerging from winter, the sugar maple tree is the first tree to offer a gift to us humans and is therefore viewed by the Abenaki as the leader of the trees thanks to sugar maple’s gift of sap for medicine and for syrup. My favorite thing to do with this gift of sap is to use this subtly sweet liquid to make my tea. It is divine, a true gift from Creator! And I’m mindful that this gift and the moveable feast of maple sugaring are at risk. Vermont is one of the fastest warming states in the U.S. 

As I reflect on this season where sugaring heralds spring and Lent leads to Easter, I wonder where to be fixed or moveable in my life and how I live into my faith. I do know this season is one that invites me to cherish, champion and celebrate life. In the words of Jesus, “I have come so that they may have life, and they may have it more abundantly.” On Easter you can be sure that the lifeblood of maple trees will symbolically and sweetly be at the celebration table with me.

Maple Candied Walnuts

So simple and so versatile, these candied nuts are great additions to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, sweet potatoes and so much more. — Heather Wolfe

So simple and so versatile, these candied nuts are great additions to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, sweet potatoes and so much more — that is, if there are any left after snacking on them! Fun fact: It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.


  • 1 ½ cups shelled walnuts
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt


Warm a dry skillet over medium heat. Add nuts, syrup and salt. Stir constantly for 2–3 minutes until caramelized. Tip the nuts off onto a plate lined with parchment paper and spread out so they do not clump. Allow to firm up. Enjoy!

Heather Wolfe

Heather Wolfe is deeply rooted in Vermont, USA, is in the Mennonite faith tradition and is part of a family Read More

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