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A Love & Loss Story

From: “A Triad Romance” by Charles W. Bier

Featured native plant: Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) I DON’T KNOW WHEN I FIRST BEGAN TO really know trees. As a youngster, I was literally a snake-in-my-pocket sort of kid. I was blooming as a broader young naturalist in my later elementary years. By the time I was a high school freshman, it was clear that I was falling in love. My new love was especially beautiful in spring and fall; a member of rich, moist, climax forests and just rare enough in my life that I would often be scanning the landscape for her whenever I was out. And my love was the sweetest. That is

probably what really clinched our relationship, for my love was the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). I consummated our relationship late in the winter of my 15th year when I taught myself how to make maple syrup. Meanwhile, a biology teacher took me to a special place, a place where my love would profoundly blossom. It was Todd Sanctuary, land protected by the Audubon Society. My first love was there, tucked away in cool and not-too-acidic soils. Then, dumbstruck, I was hired to conduct research and lead nature walks in this forest sanctuary while I was in college. There was a crude cabin there where I lived. For me, it was heaven on Earth. On an early June day, I went to meet a group for a scheduled nature hike. I remember immediately being drawn to a young woman with a strikingly sincere face and a long braid of hair down her back. Terry and I met that day, and she seemed genuinely interested in what I had to share about the forest. She was a farm girl at heart but interested in what was all around, and I could again sense some sweetness in her. Some months later I traveled to the valley where she was living, a tributary of Buffalo Creek. I reintroduced myself and wondered aloud if she had ever considered tapping the sugar maple trees in her valley and making maple syrup. In what is now a classic family quote, she said: “I would tap those trees and make syrup, if I only knew how to identify a sugar maple.” But my god, that was one of my specialties, and we joined forces to produce maple syrup, a garden, and take lots of nature hikes. She taught me how to milk her cows, and we continued to be in awe of the sugar maple whenever it was in bloom, in golden autumn splendor and certainly when the sap was running. It was a courtship triad of sorts. Terry and I were married in January 1981 and continued mapling together for many years to come as we started a family and established a homestead on nearby land where maples also grow. Terry passed away in the winter of 2009. The following spring a sugar maple tree was planted in Terry’s memory at her church. | 29

Profile for Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Wildflower Magazine 2019 | Volume 36, No. 1  

Flower-dwelling predators, love letters to native plants, how to bring nature play home, discovering a rare morning-glory, remembering an in...

Wildflower Magazine 2019 | Volume 36, No. 1  

Flower-dwelling predators, love letters to native plants, how to bring nature play home, discovering a rare morning-glory, remembering an in...

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