Author’s Photo

Untapped

Potential

Did you know it takes forty gallons of sap from a maple tree to produce one gallon of maple syrup?

To capture the photo above, I removed the collection bag from the spile. In so doing, I dashed the potential of several sap droplets. They would not become part of the golden, sweet and sticky liquid loved by pancake aficionados everywhere.

It’s a cool picture though, right? A couple of drops won’t make a difference. The picture was a good trade-off.

There is an Iroquois legend about the sap of the maple and how Woksis,the Indian chief, first tasted it as a sweet syrup because he had an ingenious wife.
Woksis was going hunting one day early in March. He yanked his tomahawk from the tree where he had hurled it the night before, and went off for the day. The weather turned warm and the gash in the tree, a maple, dripped sap into a vessel that happened to stand close to the trunk.
Woksis’s wife, toward evening, needed water in which to boil their dinner.
She saw the trough full of sap and thought that would save her a trip to get water. Anyway, she was a careful woman and didn’t like to waste anything.
She tasted it and found it good-a little sweet, but not bad. So she used it for cooking water. Woksis, when he came home from hunting, scented the inimitable maple aroma, and from far off knew that something especially good was stewing. The water had boiled down to syrup, which sweetened their meal with maple. So, says the legend, was the happy practice inaugurated.
Taken From:
The Maple Sugar Book Nearing, Helen and Scott, 1950 Schocken Books, 200 Madison Ave New York, NY 10016

The potential of sap is not — was not, easy to see.

I’ve been thinking a lot about potential lately — for myself and others. I’ve been wondering how much potential is lost because it is not recognized. How much potential is sacrificed for fear of the unknown?

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the movies with a friend. I wanted to see A Dog’s Purpose. I just love talking dogs. My friend doesn’t. She wanted to see La La Land. I didn’t. We compromised on Hidden Figures.

I did see A Dog’s Purpose a week later, and even though it was good — I took more meaning from the story of the black, female computers in Hidden Figures.

Numerous pioneering women played an integral role in NASA’s space exploration during the 1960’s and beyond. Katherine Johnson, the movies protagonist, is featured performing complex mathematical computations on a chalkboard in an opening scene. She looks to be about nine or ten years old. Her skill with math — her potential — was visible to her educators and parents. Steps were taken to nurture Katherine’s gift. She went on to break through racial barriers at NASA because of her skill and potential. In the movie, there is a scene between Katherine and John Glenn. He trusted Katherine’s ability, over that of NASA’s new IBM computer, to calculate his reentry to earth’s atmosphere.

Katherine Johnson had raw potential — seen, recognized, nurtured and blossomed.

Recently, my son selected courses for his junior year of high school. The choices are becoming greater in number, as is their significance.

What do you want to be?

The world is already asking.

I’d like to know how many teenagers are equipped to visualize what they can see themselves doing for the rest of their lives. How many have obvious potential like Katherine Johnson? How many parents and educators are looking for hidden potential?

And, if it has been recognized, how many can envision a path to put it into practice? Some are blessed with a lot of soft skills that do not have an obvious home.

Hidden potential hiding, just like sap running in the maple trees.

As a parent, I have been watching and paying attention. I take note of the activities that deliver my son to happiness and engagement; or conversely, to boredom and frustration. Like most parents, I want my son to live a fulfilled life.

I want him to live a life of experience — through his potential.

Isn’t that what we all yearn for deep down inside?

A life of meaning explored through our unique potential.

As a parent, I’ll keep watching and listening.

I’ll do my best to help my son find a way to turn his sap into syrup.