This strange half-winter endures. Last night I drove a narrow dirt lane, the track made almost riverbed-like by mud and standing water. The truck sluiced between the road’s shoulders, riding the ruts and channels, and I passed a sugarhouse in full boil, steam thick above it, obscuring the emerging night sky. The door was open. I knew the people inside, could picture them gathered around the front pan, full of the first boil’s nervous energy. They’d be hot, down to tee shirts, faces shiny with sweat and evaporated water.
I slowed and thought to stop, but already I was late to retrieve my sons from the dairy barn where they do chores twice weekly, so I put my foot back to the gas and kept rolling. Soon the sugarhouse was distant in my rearview mirror, and then I made a right turn onto another mudded road, and when I looked over my shoulder all I could see was that dense cloud of steam hanging in the too-warm February air.