sugaring time


Fisher’s Sugarhouse, Rockingham, Vermont

I walked into the intimate, mystical confines of Fisher’s sugar house, maple steam hanging in the air, a sweet sauna. From old low timbers of the old barn dripped the dampness of spring. The Fisher family and friends gathered, a springtime reunion, some with Vermont accents as thick as the spring mud, Vermont’s fifth season. Memories flowed, bringing quiet tears, of carrying my then-toddler daughters in my arms to inhale the maple, teaching them the ancient ways carried over from Native populations long passed. “Forty gallons of sap makes one gallon of syrup Daddy!” they would exclaim with delight. Pee Wee, a stout firefighter with a horseshoe mustache holding court over the sample bucket, passed around tiny paper cups of fresh, warm syrup. Heavenly sweetness slipped down our throats. Arnie, a multi-generation farmer exclaimed without irony that he was a diabetic and thus could not even enjoy the fruits of his labor, at least not to eat. Another relative stoked the fire, while he skimmed the froth off the top as the sap boiled down.

This moment captured last weekend filled my heart with great elation. I contemplated my own mortality, my life here on this funny little planet. Cancer does that to you with a steady drumbeat. Those moments when you are frozen in your tracks and realize the beauty in things great and small. I had no reason to turn up Pleasant Valley Road, a beautiful backstretch between Rockingham and Saxtons River, but something pulled me there. I saw the cars, the smoke rising from the rusted chimney and I knew. It was a Vermont homecoming.

The art of making maple syrup, like life itself, when lived to its fullest, is about boiling something down to its sweetest essence. It is a science, a craft and then there is that something else: faith and hope. Faith and hope that when it is all done, all that we have left is the sweetness.

Arnie Fisher



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3 Responses to sugaring time

  1. Faith Schuster says:

    Hi Mark,

    So nice to see you posting again. I’ve missed you!!! Hope you had a zissan Pesach. . .as sweet as your visit to the sugarhouse. How are you doing? Stay in touch. Love, Faith

  2. Tammy White says:

    LOVE this time of year! I will think of your little visit with the great Fisher family everyday while I’m driving by enjoying the waft of goodness in the air, the kids always roll down their windows and take huge deep breaths over and over to get as many breaths in as they can while I’m flying by, almost to the point of hyperventilating!! HUGS and LOVE to you!!!

  3. Rachel Damon says:

    Great piece again my friend! Sending positive and enthusastic vibes of love down to you from Fryeburg. Rachel

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