Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Off on Sick Leave

Immersed in book editing and trying to sleep through strep throat.

Hoping for better days to come.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Men Working in Trees

Sub-zero nights, sunshine days...here in southern New Brunswick, the maple sap is flowing like the Bay of Fundy. Spring is here.

Time for the sugar bush. A rite of spring here in the north. The work started weeks ago as the trees were tapped, lines strung and cans hung.

Now, curls of steam and smoke rise above the maple groves like signal fires. Some sugar shacks are new...like this one. See how straight it looks?

Inside, a shiny new evaporator boils the water from the sweet tree nectar. The sap works its way through compartments in the boiling pan, gradually becoming thicker and thicker as the water turns to steam, leaving the golden syrup behind.

The outside temperatures have been perfect and the sap has been running so fast that evaporators have been boiling all through the night for the past week, just to keep up.

This is a spile, drilled into the tree. The sap drips out into the bucket....drip...drip...drip...

In a small sugar bush, the sap cans are emptied by hand. On a larger property on a slope, it's much easier to have lines running from tree to tree down the hill, carrying the sap directly to the sugar shack.

This is one of my favourite sugar camps...big on character, light on square angles. I'd lean a bit too if I'd seen as many springs as it has....There's no better place to be, on a fine sunny, warm day.

Inside, the firebox is stoked full to the brim, heating the evaporator.

The evaporator cannot be left unmonitored. If it threatens to boil over, someone has to be there to drop in a pat of butter to stop the foam.

This evaporator is well over 60 years old. Come to think of it, so are the two guys watching the boil.

This is the fine part...after the hard work is done...the sap cans have been emptied into the storage barrel, the firebox is filled and sap is set to heat in the boiling pan. Now the guys can sit back and watch.

This is when you hear the very best stories. This is when the laughter starts.

Of course, then...there is supper at the sugar bush....ladling warm syrup right from the pan...but that's another story.

No wonder we look forward to spring.

This is Heaven.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Blessed be the Sun

Hallelujah. This was a snow-falling-from-spruce kinda day. We haven't seen the sunshine for weeks...and weeks...and weeks. I know this has affected my mood. How blessed it is when light finally appears.

We hit the trail early with snowshoes, dodging the sudden snow-dumps and silently stalking deer-feeding-on-lichen. Then in mid-afternoon, I donned the cross-country skis, and took to the golf course...creeks running wild, sun in my face, gloveless...and praise be....hot - really hot - in my fleece sweater. My face was salty when I got done. I love that gritty feeling. It's better than a facial.

Even Callie had that extra glint-in-her-eye.

Wiggling, rolling, squirming, prancing, chewing sticks...her body language saying....

Don't get me wrong...I'm pure Canadian. I love winter - I revel in snowshoeing and skiing. I look forward to a good book and chai tea while storms bluster and rage...

...but that first warm day of spring when the sun grins and snuggles close...that first warm day, when the trees drip and sneeze, shrugging off their burden of snow...that first warm day, when my freckles march forth from pale hiding places...that is a deep-in-the-gut-glorious-sense-of-joy-and-love-of-life kinda day.

On days like this, I can sense the earth move. I can hear the trees shudder and sigh themselves awake. I can taste tomorrow. On days like this, I breathe deep and give thanks...for even though I know it is only a tease, a promise...that it will not last and there will be more blustery chai tea days before the crocuses poke through...today is to be lived with a great sigh of pure bliss.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gone Fishing

Recently, I've been wading through some turbulent times (see last week's post), finding myself in a position where I've been advantage of and treated poorly. I allowed it to happen because...well, I hate making waves. Inevitably, I swamped.

I ranted in anger, tossed and turned at night, had countless conversations with myself (in which I am righteously eloquent and effective), and wrote pages and pages and pages in my journal. (Damn it, even my tranquil woodland trail has been overrun with coyotes lately and I don't feel safe there. I'm thinking they've been drawn in by my angry energy.)

I've just been miserable. But I figured it was better to let it out, than to keep it inside.

It worked. I'm exorcised. Empty.

Now I can look for the fish. I no longer see turbulent water, but valuable feeding grounds. Now I can see what an opportunity this was for me.

I learned some valuable lessons through my turmoil. I learned to clearly define what I believe. Out loud. Put it to words. ( I believe...) That's the easy part. The hard part is pairing action with belief. If my actions do not uphold that belief, then I diminish it. It loses its value.

I recognized that in defense of my belief, I might have to take a terrible loss right now, but doing so for the right reasons would bring me long term gain far beyond what I can see from here. And I reached a place where I felt the risk was worth it.

My fish has a name. It's name is self-worth.