Lakes & Syrup
This past week saw a continued zigzag of weather temperatures, with a February thaw thrown in for good measure. It was the first time in several weeks that the ice was almost entirely absent from the lake and I was able to get my kayak out onto the water. The open water also ushered in the arrival of a handful of red-winged blackbirds and a flock of fifty or sixty ring-necked ducks, feeding, swimming and flying in and around the edges of the lake. All signs pointing to the fact that the spring migration is under way. I wonder who knows best, the birds or the beavers. I say this because as I paddled around one of our local beaver lodges, I saw that they still had plenty of "get us through the winter" supplies piled just outside the lodge. Do the beavers know something the groundhog, the birds and I don't? Who will be more prepared for the coming weeks? Only time will tell.
As I floated about the lake, listening to geese squabble over sections of open water, I thought of a passage I had just read in Curt Stager's book, Still Waters: The Secret World of Lakes. "Lakes are transient eddies of distilled seawater that is air-mailed to them from the oceans little by little in countless droplets and flakes. Clouds and the seemingly empty gaps of humid air between them, rain and snow, lakes and rivers, berry juice and the moisture in our mouths, all are teeming with water molecules that evaporated from the oceans and will eventually return to them. Life on land is impossible without that cyclic flow, and it exists only where enough water falls from the sky to sustain living cells...With water making up two-thirds of our body mass, we are literally elemental kin to clouds, lakes, and oceans that help to create the living world and hitch us to it." Is it little wonder that I feel so at home floating out on the lake.
As I docked my boat and climbed ashore, I stood looking at some other "kin", the maple trees along the water's edge. I am fairly certain that with the ebb and flow of temperatures these past few weeks the sap within them, which is ninety-seven percent water, is on the move heading up the long trunks to feed the formation of new leaves. I lean my head against one of the trunks hoping to hear the pulse of the fluid moving just beneath the bark. Although, I hear only my breath and the distant splash of ducks landing, leaning there I am reminded of the smell of wood smoke mixed with the heavy, sweet-smelling warmth of last year's sugar shacks and I begin dreaming of deep, rich brown bottles of maple syrup. I also think of where the water pulsing up through the trunk will eventually go. Once it escapes from the tree, evaporates into the air will it become a cloud that may then send raindrops back down to earth, perhaps out on the coast where the salt-laden waves crash against the shore and my friends walk searching for treasures? Will they know that the drops of rain that graze their cheeks are a greeting from my tree? With subzero temperatures in the forecast for tonight, the ice will most likely begin to creep back into the shallow areas, the sap will slow its journey up the tree and my kayak will once again rest on its rack, but for now I will continue floating on the joy of a few hours out on the lake in mid February.