If you climb far enough into our woods (and you don’t have to climb very far), you’ll find that the softwoods give way to their deciduous cousins. Soon you are surrounded by sugar maples, interspersed with yellow birch and the odd black cherry, the occasional white ash, the infrequent beech. But still. Mostly sugar maple, the leaves now gone to shades of orange. Come spring a guy could tap them all, have himself a little sugaring business, stay up nights boiling, maybe pay the property taxes on the profit.
Last year, we put out about 40 taps. We didn’t pay the property taxes in syrup. We didn’t pay much of anything in syrup, for that matter.
I like to walk up past the imprecise divide between the spruce and the maple, where the forest opens wide, and I find ledge-y outcroppings good for sitting a spell and pondering the ways of the world. Or if not the ways of the world, then the ways of humankind. Because let’s be honest: The ways of the word are long sight beyond my pay grade. So too the ways of humankind, come to think of it. But that don’t stop me from trying.
Anyway. These are the places for the big thoughts – the many variants of love, for instance, or the impermanence of most anything, or the responsibilities of parenthood, or what constitutes compassion, or whether or not Blackberry Smoke’s new offering is as good as their last (fuck yeah, it is. Better, maybe. Check it).
And they’re a good place for the small questions, too, like will the goddamned calf we’re weaning ever shut the eff up, or should I buy new snow tires for the car or go my usual used route and then regret it later, or did I have enough diesel in the tractor to spend all of tomorrow in the woods, or will we get siding on the house before snowfall? Yeah, well. Probably not. Maybe next year.
And sometimes those ledge-y outcroppings are just a good place to sit a spell and think as little as possible, until the rock is too hard and too cold against your inadequate ass, and the sun is too low in the sky, and so you walk back down the hill, back under the evershadows of the evergreens, past the remaining pig, lonely and large, down the tractor road. Nothing determined, nothing affirmed. Nothing more than home to family. Home to bed.