The period of learning that we are in now, Project Period, affords the opportunity to step (ease?) into the spring term with a singular focus.
We will change it up next week, slide into the rhythm of full academic and athletic days, but the breather that is Project Period has small groups engaged in all manner of activities - dog sledding, fly tying, sugaring, quilt making – and we see different parts of the campus activated in different ways. These different possibilities emerging are a reminder about the constancy of learning across the community spectrum, and sometimes we are reminded of lessons we should not forget. Life lessons.
Take sugaring. For most of the year the small red building that is the sugarhouse sits dormant. A few teepees of wood stand stacked nearby. The building features in fall foliage photographs. Or winter scenes. The collecting tank that goes in the back of the one-ton looks like a giant white turtle. But come late March the front door opens, sugar on snow appears, steam billows, and buckets hang on sugar maples around campus. We consider older rhythms and older lessons.
There’s not a lot of technology involved in sugaring, although even this timeless activity is not impervious to change. Vacuum pumps, reverse osmosis, propane – they can all play a role. But the sap still has to come from sugar maples, the weather can be fickle, and it takes roughly 40 gallons of sap coming out of a tree to make a gallon of syrup. The way near syrup sheets off a paddle is the same today as 75 years ago, and you can still ruin a pan in a matter of minutes if you let it boil dry.
In the learning environment of today when change seems to be the only constant, the sugarhouse reminds us that there may be more stability in our world than we might otherwise imagine. It reminds us that little details are big details, that collaboration eases the burden, that fires need tending. It reminds us of nature. Of consequences. It reminds us to be patient and that we can control what we can control, but there are always bigger forces at work, bigger systems. And it reminds us that maybe if everything lines up there could be a little sweetness along the way.
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Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School