the sap season of spring

The sap run came late this year. We are down to a single mason jar of maple syrup in the pantry. I’ve had to hide it from my partner who uses it to sweeten his coffee, else wise the girls won’t have any for french toast and pancake treats.

2019-03-15 11.21.26.jpg

This winter started early and this late spring arrives with a sense of relief. The sap is flowing heavy now, the sound of drops plinking into the sap buckets merrily as I empty the day’s bounty.

It is clumsy in this first week. The snow is still deep as I trudge into the forest in my snowshoes, hauling a sled with a drill, hammer, spigots, and buckets. My snowshoe comes loose and I sink to my hip, the buckets crashing together in the sled like a laugh track to my escapades.

I dig out the tree and drill into its sunniest side. Bits of sawdust collect at the base before I am finished. It makes me smile when a few drips appear at the edge of the spigot as I tap it into the tree. If not, it doesn’t matter. They will come.

The next day I trudge back out. It should be easier in the trail I broke the day before, but the sun’s been high and has softened the snow. Saplings bent beneath the weight of snow pop up to trip me. The bright yellow buckets I use to transport the sap swing on their handles, landing upright while I faceplant into the soft snow, quietly cursing my snowshoes. It would not be easier without them, I know, but I am clumsy when I wear them.

The cheery yellow buckets grow heavy as I tip the galvanized buckets that hang from the spigots inside them. This year the snow fleas are heavy, small harmless bugs which hop and gather in the hollows of my footprints. They seem to particularly enjoy the hole I made when I stepped out of my snowshoe and sank. One sap bucket is filled with them. I tip it through a filter of fabric mesh and shake the snow fleas off on the snow.

There are easier ways of doing this. I could set up hoses to run into a single cauldron, but for all my clumsiness it’s good to be outside stumbling into spring with a warm sun on my skin.048-002

Days are filled with boiling, life becoming scented with sweet sugar, cobwebs I never knew were there laden with fairy baubles and beauty. I dip a mug into the hot sap and sip it like tea: hot, sweet, and maple flavored. A spring treat for me while I pour syrup on the snow for the girls to roll up on a Popsicle stick and eat as chewy candy.

 

Someday I might venture into maple butter or maple wine, but while the girls are small it’s proven best to keep things simple: watch the boil with a book or a pen in my hand while they play their games and we stretch our bodies after the long cold wait of winter.

fairy willows

“Look, pussy willows.” I point out to my small person.

“What if they’re fairy eggs, and they’re going to hatch and make everything turn green soon?”

“Good one.” This is our game. Who can come up with the wildest ‘what if?’. The winner is our imagination. I consider my answer, sipping from my coffee. “What if the tree is a fairy nursery and the pussy willows are fairy babies swaddled up to stay warm? Shh. We don’t want to wake them up.”

“Wake up fairies!” My small person hollers. “It’s time to make everything grow again!”

There’s a rustle. A robin chirps. A crocus pokes through the leaf litter. Yellow coltsfoot blossoms dot the ditches. A rotten snowbank collapses and trickles into the water. My small person’s eyes grow wide.

the ghosts of old summers

The ghosts of old summers linger within the slumbering trees as they hold their naked vigil against the frigid length of winter. They haunt me from my window, whispering of a riot of green and a lullaby of peepers. Fireflies. Flowers. A slick of sweat above my lip. The scent of soil as I pull a carrot from the garden. The buzz of a bee. The shriek of cicada. The scurry of some small creature in the undergrowth.

A rush of bracing wind scatters my ghosts. The cold austerity of a winter morning holding fast. For now. But not for long.

adolescence

029

He felt unsure of his new body. There were limbs sticking out every which way already and every day something new uncoiled he had no idea what to do with. He did his best not to panic but he was beginning to have grave concerns about who or what he was going to be at the end of all of this.

dewdrop cups

052

It had been a dry spring, but the morning dew still brought moisture to the forest. The tiniest of newborn fairies were nervous to fly up and catch themselves a dewdrop, so the nearby hazel cupped its leaves to capture the droplets for them. When they were full the leaves leaned down to let the fairy babies to sip their fill and grow up fat and fey.

nodding off

040

The flower child yawned, her eyes closing against her will. Her head fell forward as sleep overtook her. She realized it at once and jerked herself awake. It lasted half a moment before she nodded off again. She began to fight it once more but her dreams began to whisper promises of wondrous things and tempted her to stay.