“Look to the sky for spring!
See how the lengthening light
begins to linger in the tops of trees;
they take on color now, and are alive in
– Kathryn Hall
(Hunter) It was especially true this year that we had to “look to the sky for spring.” We surely could not see it coming in the snowbanks that continued to accumulate well into April, and stubbornly refused to melt away.
When the maple sugar season, after lying dormant for a week, returned in early April, I returned to the sugarhouse. On the way out I heard a robin urging me to “cheer up, cheerily, cheer up,” which I was happy to do. The chickadees, that even in January had occasionally sung their spring “phebee,” now sang it with gusto “phebee, phebee, phebee!” The pileated woodpecker was busy at his elongated excavation high up on a dead maple limb. The wood chips were piling up below.
I opened the flaps of the sugarhouse, recorded the date of my renewed activity, and built the fire. As soon as it was roaring, I left the well flooded pan to boil merrily, and moved my chair outside to savor the changing season. Looking to the north, the sides of Mount Ascutney still had patches of snow, and off to the west the ski trails on Okemo were still solidly white. But as the poet had directed, I looked up to the surrounding tree tops and felt, in her words: “The willow’s amber-gold wake up the heart.” And I saw that the tops of the maples showed the faintest blush of pink.
When I walked over to empty some of the buckets, I found the snow cover mostly gone near the stone wall, and the green tips of the day lilies piercing the ground. Somehow they knew it was time. When son Graham came out to check on my progress, I asked him to bring out his chain saw and clear out some of the brush in the little sugarbush that we are developing next to the sugarhouse. At the corner stands a really ancient maple that for years has easily worn three buckets. The trunk is peppered with the scars of earlier taps, a reminder of generations who have tapped before me. This year we tapped a handsome young maple nearby, for the first time, and hung one bucket. It produced beautifully.
As Graham cleared around several maple saplings it was nice to think that someday his grandchildren may tap those trees. By then the old grandfather maple by the stone wall may be gone, and I surely will be, but the old truths will hold.
“Though snow lies deep in woods, and ice
still fringes ponds,
The upper air is full of messages,
the softer clouds, wings of returning
Lift up your eyes! look to the sky for
This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.
Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center, Vermont.