One day all the syrup was gone
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My friend Sarah says that one of the first things expected to be pushed to the brink of extinction because of global warming are maple trees. Changes in the weather, it seems, are already beginning to mean that the maples are beginning to produce less sap.
She had what sounded like a perfectly sound scientific explanation for this, being an actual scientist, but that meant nothing to me. What struck me was the idea that the price of maple syrup will go up, until it is a luxury item. She estimated that my grandkids might see maple syrup as something they have only on special occasions, on Christmas morning maybe, or something that only rich people eat.
My daughter once asked me what a carbon copy was. She was reading a book in which two characters were said to be in many ways carbon copies of each other. The word meant nothing to her. Explaining it to her made me feel the changes I had lived through. Admittedly a very small change.
I once met a woman old enough to remember when the automobile was new. This was in a place called Bluefield, West Virginia. She remembered when coal was king and her life was filled with prosperity. When we talked, the mines and the small coal companies had mostly closed, and unemployment was rampant. She figured she would leave her small part of this earth in hard times.
Her life had taken her through a time when she saw a man walk on the moon. Henry Ford to Neil Armstrong, the Model T to the lunar module. That is seeing things change.
And now, maple syrup. The changes we seem destined to witness have more to do with loss. Maybe it is just that we have learned somehow to take the advances for granted, so that only the losses count.
Global warming was not the only change people were talking about this week. You do not have to be an economist to see the ripples of the recent Wall Street mess.
There is an almost personal trickle-down economy here. When money is tight, building slows down, less people have cash in their pockets and so merchants feel the pinch. People begin to lose their jobs. On top of it all the scallop season is marked with heated arguments over just how many scallops can be fished out of the harbor.
You go for a couple of beers and the economy is the topic of conversation at the bar, and even the bar owner stops to talk about it. People talk about it while stretching at the gym. You notice that there seem to be less trucks on the roads and less people at the Stop & Shop. Conversations are already in the air about what cuts to make at the high school.
There is a general feeling that we will all feel the cold this winter, that the face of this island will change. And now the possibility of losing that most comforting of condiments forever.
Maple syrup seems like the least of out worries in the face of hard economic times. But the point is that islanders will remember just how resilient they have always been. Everyone will tighten our belts and make it through the winter.
It is very easy to live here when times are good, easier than it is to live most places. And it is very difficult to live here when times are bad, more difficult than most places. But a bad economy does not last forever.
So take a moment on a rainy Sunday morning for pancakes and bacon and an egg, all of it dripping in real Vermont maple syrup. While you still have the time.
– John Stanton