The air is sweet today, a peculiarly Vermont combination of wood fire and maple syrup.  We’re surrounded at our hours, with a sugar maker on each side.  Both their sugar houses are in full swing, and the smells roll into us from both sides. 

I like tasting each year’s new syrup (and yes, it’s slightly different from year to year).  But what I really enjoy is the joy that surrounds the whole process.  It’s traditionally been a time to drop by and chat.  The whole process of making maple syrup is a congenial process; it takes about forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  That takes time and vigilance.  As long as you don’t distract the folks in charge, there is time to catch up with your neighbors.

Last year, COVID hit in the middle of the maple sugaring season, and we didn’t go to the sugar house.  Now that I think about it, we purposely kept away from these special neighbors for essentially a whole year.  We typically them at social gatherings at least four or five times during the year.  But in our efforts to make sure that we kept them safe, we have seen them only once, at a numbers-controlled, socially distanced, outdoor campfire cookout, all the way back in October. 

This year, COVID is still a concern.  But we know so much more now.  We have masks, social distancing and limits on the number of people.  Most excitedly, our neighbors are vaccinated now. 

Feeling such delight in seeing neighbors?  That’s my silver lining for today.