Today, the sap is running. It has been, on and off, for the last two weeks. I’ve spent as much of that time as possible a couple hours north of Toronto with family and friends tapping trees, carrying sap, cutting firewood, stoking fires, boiling sap into syrup, and finally bottling it. This is anything but a professional operation. The pleasure began on a Thursday when we bricked the evaporator, also called an “arch,” a “fire box,” an “oven,” and which I, for unconscious reasons, cannot help but call “the kiln”: think of an oil drum cut in half and flipped on its long side. Think of fire bricks, of scoring them with a diamond blade and tapping them apart with a wedge, of fitting them, puzzle style, along the sides of the barrel, and then mortaring them into place. Realize, belatedly, having never cut or mortared bricks before, having run out of mortar twice, that you only really need to mortar the sides of the bricks together, not also to mortar their backs to the evaporator. Imagine alternating sleet and sunshine and snow, and once, imagine them simultaneously; feel the pull and suck of mud, a sort of gurgling insistence on the future, that transforms in a few steps into the season’s last snow; feel its granular staunchness. Notice the glint of steel buckets overflowing with sap in the afternoon sun on the edge of a cow field, its long grasses waving in the wind; perhaps you can see the two little dogs, one grey, one blond, following always in your wake. Or hear them barking. Imagine stoking the fire every twenty minutes to get and keep the large pan full of sap boiling on the evaporator for hours and hours. Think of your arms. And of sitting outside in sunlight and in the dark as the season shifts every so slightly into an idea of spring.
We saw a coywolf at dusk. It was startling and beautiful. And several deer. And now, at the beginning of the end of the sugaring season, there are, for the first time this year, bugs in the sap. This, all of it, is a privilege. And a pleasure. I begin blogging for Open Book: Toronto amidst the duration of this other ending—
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.