We tapped five trees with six taps this year. Since mid-March each bucket has filled up 3/4 of a gallon each day. This week however, things are picking up. The buckets are filling a gallon several times a day.
It is pouring out of the trees like a cut wound of a hemophiliac. You can cup your hand under the drip and catch enough to take a gulp. What comes out is a sweet, watery, refreshing drink that makes manufactured sugar drinks pale by comparison. The sugar is subtle, light, natural, fresh. It is almost like drinking earth.
After collecting it all several times a day in five gallon buckets, we move to the fire. A fire that is kept rolling by massive amounts of scrap wood Rob brought home from various work projects. The more wood you keep on, the hotter the fire, the faster the water burns off. And the faster you get to the sticky part. The best part.
The sap boils all day. We add more wood as it gets low, burning and burning and burning it down. Finally, when there is an inch or two left in the pot, we bring it inside to complete the boiling on the stove. Inside, we can keep an eye on the progress, pick out the dead bugs, and sample as much as we'd like.
Eventually, we get close to syrup. Not being an expert syrup-maker, I just taste test, look for thickness and stickiness, and simply hope I pull it off before it burns. I did burn one batch this year already. It tasted like smoke-flavored caramel. Not entirely awful, but a bit too burnt for my liking.
To complete the process, I sterilize a few canning jars, pour the syrup in, seal the jars, lick the pot clean, and wait for the lids to pop, telling me they've sealed. This year so far I've canned more than 10 pints of maple syrup. And some is boiling as I write this. Some pints are thick and gooey, some amber and watery. I paid more attention to some batches, and thus they are more along the lines of perfect. Others, well, they'll just be good for a tea sweetener months from now. No matter how perfect or not, it feels like I am creating gold. Out of the blood of trees comes a powerful and deep wealth.
How does this all pertain to writing? (Doesn't everything pertain to writing?) See, all this sap made me forget about writing. I forgot, for a brief time about deadlines, and work habits, and artistic fears. I'm just outside, reading a book, keeping the fire going. The last few months of winter have been long (as per my last Balance Wednesday post). I have felt a bit like the maple trees- shut down and shut in, the sweetness is in there, just waiting for some warmth to let me stretch my limbs again. In cold days, windy days, rainy days, and now finally sunny and warm days, getting out and emptying the buckets, stoking the fire, and sampling sap is just what I need to get me out of my winter-ice-frozen stupor and back in the living world. I am moving again however slowly and stickily. And that means my writing is too.