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Maple Season and the Myth of Closure

For those that come to Oak Lane Maple just wanting syrup I want to let you know that I truly value you and appreciate your needs. I think our syrup is for everyone, and yet, we will never make enough to satisfy the human craving for the best sweet stuff on earth. So, my apologies in advance.


Before I helped save Fenway Park, stop casinos from destroying Philadelphia's riverfront, or founded Oak Lane Maple I was a young person, and a son to two amazing parents, Lance and Charna Heiko. As a son, I think both of my parents are very special and amazing people. Lance, my dad, was an innovative, chess-playing, math wiz, a multilingual physicist who started a renewable energy company in the 70s. He imagined a time when all of our power, in our homes our cars, and businesses would run on solar and other renewable energy. That was almost 50 years ago. He was my soccer coach, my math tutor, and my friend. Our walks were epic, we could almost solve anything on those walks, or at least come up with some great questions to ponder.


And in 1993, when I was 20 he died. His loss wasn't quick but I got to be with him, a lot. I got to hold one of his hands, my brother holding his other when he died. I got to hold him, say I love him and I got to feel his love back. I got to cry and laugh with his friends afterward, I got to be with my community to get support. And when I talk about his death I almost always feel support in response. Before this pandemic, not every son or child of a dad ever gets to feel all of that. A year after his death I started a bereavement program for young people called Reflect. It was the first community program I started. And I could do that because of the support that I got from so many.


And in 2020 too many children of parents didn't get the chance at the end. And too many loved ones and friends experienced painful, personal losses that just seem and are entirely unfair and far too soon, and there is no closure.


And in the past 2 years, we have struggled to keep ourselves together at least I know I have. To manage losses of people, jobs, businesses, friends, relationships, and if we were lucky or privileged enough we got to feel the loss of security and safety that all too many people and communities never or rarely feel. Losses were big and small, and far too many to catalog here. Fractures, pain, and trauma in our society and world that have not been acknowledged enough or repaired seem to have expanded, sometimes with more light illuminating them, but without a proportionate wellspring of empathy or action in response.


And I'm tapping maple trees.


The Oak Lane Maple tagline is Tapping Into Community. And never has it been so hard for me to reach out, make that next phone call, or plan an event. I never know what I will find on the other side, how much pain, losses that person or potential collaborator is experiencing. Sometimes I ask or at least open the window and there's so much to share, like a sugar maple that could have been tapped a bit sooner, and I wish I had.


Meanwhile Pauline Boss writes a book and I see an article, then another. I learn that she coined the term "ambiguous loss" which I've used but had never known or thought to find out who came up with it. And I'm not so good at reading anymore but I love the first two chapters. Her approach to loss is more like how I've approached it since my father died. Not seeking closure, rather making whole through the process of grieving, making meaning of the new world without. And now, a lot slower due to injuries, continuing to go on walks, my father with me, coming up with great questions. The latest: if we live in a deforested forest what's our role in reforesting it? and if this is a sugarbush we are living in, how might we bring more sweetness to our community?


Maple season is a time to honor ambiguity, to learn how to plan when you can't schedule, you don't know when the season starts or ends but it's sometime after deep winter when it's really cold at night, and not so cold during the day. And so many other ambiguous realities to manage, again too many to catalog here. At least that's maple season for me. I hope we have more than enough syrup, and we will, and we won't. And I hope you can join us in some way. And if you haven't done so yet, check out Pauline Boss's work, she's in her 80s and has dedicated her life to something very important to me-all of us.



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As the season comes to an end (we are boilings syrup today) it's great to reflect on all we accomplished together as a community. A community of neighbors, partners, organizations, families. It's hard

It's good. To tap into community. For us it's tagline and mission, simply put. It is also necessary. A necessity. The current state of our all too deforested urban sugarbush is that the trees just are