Mud Season and Tree Sugar   Leave a comment

This warmth won’t last, though it makes me say
earth feels like home on a sunny day.
But let sky darken and wind turn chill
And old winter wields dominion still.

*  *  *

While the warm hours last, birds try out songs we haven’t heard for months, and the woodworkers appear.  Not carpenters or cabinet-makers, but those people who come out of the woodwork on fine days like this, delightfully odd folks you swear you’ve never seen before, or at least not on this planet.  Probably I play the role myself for at least one other person, with my day’s stubble and turtleneck, wool socks with Birkenstocks.  “There are things more important than comfort,” says author Ursula LeGuin, “unless you are an old woman or a cat.”  Though I can’t qualify as the former, I’ve been feeling feline these last few days, so I pay no mind.

In our co-op parking lot an old woman is singing to herself, a rhythmic song in another language that keeps time with her cane striking the ground.  A sky-blue 60s Cadillac makes its way around the parking lot, then subsides with a splutter.  A couple climb out, then look up like they’ve never seen sky before and, heads tilted back, they drink it in for a full minute or more.  Their pleasure is contagious.  It’s a day people greet strangers simply because we’ve resurfaced, emerged from the bunker of ice and snow and cold and hunkering down, into a world of thaw and mud and sudden warmth on the skin.

Sugar shacks smoke trough the night as the sap rises and the “sweet trees” yield their juice.  You pass what you think is just a stand of trees, and there’s a faint square glow from a shack window, someone patiently (or impatiently) at work through the evening.  Boil down the sap over a low heat, a wood fire as often as not, more and still more, then just keep going beyond all reason, and you eventually get a single lovely brown gallon for every thirty to forty of pale sap you’ve lugged in.  If you do sugaring for more than yourself and family and maybe a few friends, you upgrade and invest in an evaporator.  And if through the hours and days you manage not to scorch the slowly condensing syrup, that first taste on pancakes (or over a bowl of crisp new snow, a northern treat more rare this year) makes sore muscles and bloodshot eyes and smoky clothing worth it.

The French further north have their cabanes a sucre, where the temperatures haven’t risen quite so high and more of the white stuff remains.

And sweeter still, in less than ten days, the vernal equinox, with day then overtaking night.  Hail, growing light!

/|\ /|\ /|\

Images:  Sugar shack; cabane.

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Posted 13 March 2012 by adruidway in Druidry, equinox, nature, outdoors, poetry, Sugar Shack, trees

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