For the past two weeks, we’ve been spending long days in the woods, working with living trees. Each winter’s end we do this, venturing out on snowshoes to visit each maple tree. As we distribute sap buckets, we pause to put our arms around some of the trees, measuring their girth to determine whether they will get one tap or two. Then, a few hours later, we return with a drill and once again find ourselves looking up, appreciating the height and grace of each tree, checking the health of the overhead branches, looking closely at the bark to find the evidence of previous years’ taps, and judging the tree’s health and the best spot to make this year’s holes.
Our work with wood throughout the year springs renewed from this time of connection with the living forest, with the trees in their home on our hillside, amongst the moss and stones, woodpeckers and spiders, snow fleas and breezes. Sugaring weather involves everything from balmy blue skies to a roaring gale complete with sleet and snow, everything from melting snow to the delicate sharp crystals of ice forming at the rim of the bucket as the temperature plummets at sundown. The trees, older than us, wiser than us, firmly rooted in the rocky hillside yet swaying as they stretch toward heaven– the trees are the medium of our livelihood. What we build grew, first, before it knew saw or plane or chisel or tung oil. The wood remembers, and brings some of that forest-wisdom forward into the new forms, into our homes and lives.