The syruping season usually lasts about three weeks, from the first time it warms up enough for the sap to flow, until the tree starts turning all the sucrose in its sap into cellulose, which it uses to build leaves and begin spring. This year it lasted seven weeks. When I was planning, I figured I’d be there the entire time, because I had the whole month of March and a little of April to spare. But spring teased us week after week: we’d have a few days above 40°, and think, “Ah, good, as soon as this melts the snow, the roots will be warm enough to send up sap.” And then it’d go back down to highs of 31°. “Maybe next week.” Well, next week and next week brought the second coldest April on record in Minnesota. Canada geese, trumpeter swans, and sandhill cranes who had winged back up in mid-March with the breath of warm promise in the air were stuck flying around in circles, looking for something to eat in the snow or in the little patch of open water under the Independence Street bridge where a stream brought deep water up to the surface. I woke up on April Fools’ Day to 3½ inches of snow on my tent.
Lately I’ve been spending most of my time at or around the freezing point. Tall old maples, mixing with basswoods and oaks, head on up toward the sky, intertwining their fingers up above to roof us while leaving only their trunks down below for us to wander among. I can see all the way down to the lake, where, past its fringe of dense cattail marsh, the ice is still thick but slowly darkening. Last year spring came in February and never left. This year it still hasn’t found its way and there’s only a week until April.
It’s Thursday today. On Monday I did a few morning chores and had my last day at ARC, and left with Misty for Minneapolis. Monday also happened to be the day of the March Snowpocalypse, and we had to turn back. I spent the rest of Monday and Tuesday happily snowed in, with just me, Misty, and another community member named Medora bouncing around in a 10,000-square-foot log cabin.
Item: What have I been doing at ARC? I’ve been becoming a human. I always used to think I was one already, but it turns out every time in my past when it was time to do human things, I was elsewhere.
I know, I didn’t expect to be this far north at this time of year either. But sometimes you just have to go where life is telling you to go.
Here comes another poem. They keep happening. I hope that’s okay.
The last time I wrote anything about where I was, Misty and I were happily in the middle of doing odd jobs at Feral Farm in Washington. We’re not there anymore; we like to stay at places for about a month and then move on to the next place with a lesson. But I wanted to mention something we learned from being there. After all this is a trip that’s all about learning, and although we’re mostly targeting ourselves at learning how to live off the land, a lot of the lessons we pick up will be useful for people who are planning to do nothing of the sort.