Maple Sugaring

this is the kind of year the old new hampshire farmers like to see / moderate / cold nights / mild days / not too much ice / the maple sap starts to flow late in february / i walk down from my sanctuary to the couchtown road this afternoon / i admit that my motives are to find a spot where my cell phone will reach ann / i really need to hear her musical voice / but like her the day is lovely too / cool / 40 ish / a thin milky cirrostratus overcast filters the sun / i hear the air passing high up over my head in the tree tips but very little breeze advects down to the road where i walk / the soft wind just whispers high up / i enjoy this walk…

the rhythm of life moves more slowly here / more in step with the seasons / the land is just now beginning to show the first signs of waking / we are a month from the first crocuses / but i know that soon the red winged blackbirds will return to the bog down below my sanctuary / i love the first conk-a-ree songs of the year / it is a certain sign that the back of the winter is broken even here in the icy shadow of mount kearsage / the chickadees have already abandoned their staccato de de de de de admonition in favor of singing their two note languid lyrical love song / searching for their soul mate / they yearn to complete and be completed like i do / i really miss ann today…

the couchtown road has begun to soften / the thick gritty rutty layer of truck tire compacted ice and snow has great pools of standing water in the low spots / the ground beneath is still hard frozen / after all / last week it still got to 3 below here / but in the few places where the february sun has reached / the road has become bare / naked and muddy / true mud season is still several weeks away / the top layers of the dirt road will thaw first but because the ground below is still hard frozen / the water stands in place / it is mud over ice / and as more ice melts below / the trapped layer of saturated mud gets thicker and deeper / mud season is far worse than snow season for getting stuck up here / but finally the ice will completely abandon the ground under the relentless attack of the spring sunshine / the water will eventually drain down into the water table to give me bath water from my well this summer…

my neighbor G has already hung hundreds of sap buckets on the sugar maples which line both sides of the old couchtown road / he is a major land owner in salisbury and warner / he is a good steward / taking from the land in a renewable way / giving back what would otherwise go to waste / he rotates his woodlots / selectively harvesting the hardwoods to sell for firewood / opening up the forest floor to allow light and air which the next generation of saplings need to grow straight and strong / the sugar maples are only harvested when they become unhealthy or broken / some of these venerable old trees are large around as my truck / supporting as many as 8 sap buckets / as i walk along further i notice that the tap lines are also hooked up / bright blue plastic tubes running for miles through the woods / spreading out like a web / connecting to trees too remote from the road / the thin sugary sap runs down through the tubing like water / out of the woods and into big plastic reservoirs by the side of the road / i can hear the drip drip drip of the sap flowing into the giant tub as i walk past

G always taps my trees too / neighbors up here take care of one another / my 23 acres has enough trees to fill a reservoir all by themselves / plus there are the dozen huge trees that line the couchtown road on my property beneath my sanctuary / i don’t ask for anything in return / but G always shows up every may with a jug of his fine light amber syrup / i act surprised / accept it gracefully with thanks / not telling him that i still have an unopened jug from last year / it is the neighborly thing to do / i invite him in / we talk about the sap run and the mud and the black flies this year / comparing all this to last year and all the years gone by / it looks as if this will be a good year / and i know quietly this is true for many reasons / i am a rich man

finally my cell phone comes to life / except for this one spot the hills shadow the telephone signal / like the trees shadow the road / and only in this one spot can i get through / i have been here many times before throughout the winter / my footprints still remain in the gravel from the last time i was here / i talk with ann and tell her of the wonders of the forest and the air and the sky and the mud / yes / even the mud has a certain beauty here / her voice warms me inside like the golden spring sun on my face / we speak softly of our devotion / we have faith in our love and know we must wait and be patient / i know she will join me here in the spring / we exchange our love and i promise to walk down here again tonight in the light of the gibbous moon to kiss her goodnight

time moves at its own pace here on the couchtown road / april will surely come this year / we shall not lose faith

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