Scott will not draw the syrup from the vaporizer until the temperature in the trays has reached 219 degrees. It got to 215 soon enough, but stalled there for a long time as a very cold wind shrieked all around us. We were not minding it, we were into the hot toddies by then. Finally, he turned the lever and filled the first jar, which he generously gave to me. It is great stuff. Almost as good as the toddies. As a diabetic and someone in recovery from open heart surgery, I weighed the merits of drinking hot toddies in a Sugar House. it was a good decision.
There are days when I am powerfully reminded of why I love to live where I live, and the first day of sugaring, the boiling and steaming and making of maple syrup is one of them. I am privileged to have been invited to Scott Carino's cozy little sugar house, I brought Red who is welcome there. The wind and cold was powerful, the wind was roaring through the woods and it was freezing. It was warm inside, the smell of the sap in the vaporizer deep and sweet.
Inside the sugar house there was an afternoon of work, steam, sweet smells, tubes, pipes, boiling cauldrons, levers and fires, a medieval processes coupled with true friendship. Scott loves the old ways of doing it, he disdains the more modern and efficient systems, he goes by feel and smell and taste. He hops from bucket to tube to vaporizer to cauldron and vat, pulling levers, cackling and muttering like a sorcerer.
Scott and I have achieved that rare thing among men, true and lasting and trusting friendship. We sat for hours and helped prepare the first round of sugaring, as it is called. I admit it, the Sugar House is a man cave – no women there day – we sat talking, laughing, stoking fires and checking on vats and in between sipping from some delicious hot toddies, whiskey and maple syrup. A great drink on a cold winter afternoon.
I can talk to Scott, he is not put off by me and my ways, and I accept his passionate and idiosyncratic personality. We are both outsiders who spent many years figuring out where we belonged, for both of us, it was his Sugar House this afternoon. Red curled up near the fire and was still, except for when the wind roared and shook the building, that made him nervous.
I have not had a lot of lasting friendships with men, it is something I was not able to do. I think that has changed, along with so many other things in my life. Men do not make friends easily or keep them long, as a rule. Sociologists say that is because men put work and responsibility above friendship, they rarely make room for it.
I have made room for my friendship with Scott, he has made room for me. Really, that's all it takes for us. We demand nothing from one another but truth and connection.
This was a wonderful day to spend an afternoon, by a roaring fire in a sugar house on a cold and windy day, dog underfoot, friend a few feet away. We talked about work, drank our toddies, exchanged feelings about our life and our ambitions for the next chapter in our lives.
The world always seems a brighter place if you turn off the news, put work and obligations aside, and hang out with a good friend. I hope I always make room for that, I expect to be back in Scott's Sugar House later on when it warms up.
Join the herd. First, they came for the horses pulling carriages. Then the ponies giving rides to children. Then, the elephants in the circus, and the homeless man's dog, and the chickens on the farm, and the horses in Hollywood, and the sled dogs and the border collies herding sheep. Then, they will come for you, as this open-hearted and transparent farmer discovered. More about the awful troubles of Joshua and Wendy Rockwood here. Ignorance about horses threatens the New York Carriage Horses. Ignorance about animals and farming threatens the life of a farmer.
If you can, join the herd. For their sake. For our sake. For yours. Today, they came for him Next, for all of us.
Soon after Maria and I first met, we worked out a business arrangement. She could use the Studio Barn at Bedlam Farm for her art, and in exchange, she would help care for the Bedlam Farm animals on weekends. Maria has always loved animals, but rarely had the opportunity to care for animals like sheep or donkeys. She loved the work so much – her pockets were stuffed with carrots and apple slices – that she would sometimes cry while feeding and brushing them, not out of sadness but out of pure joy.
Too often, we shout words at animals they cannot and do not understand, then we blame them for not being like us. Maria is a person whose emotions are right on the surface, she is instinctively honest and open. I am not instinctively open, I have to work at it and learn how to do it.
From the first, I was awestruck at her connection with the donkeys, they are also intuitive creatures, they smell and sense human emotion. Maria began a dialogue with them that continues to this day, and it was a key element of my learning to love photography, because I could see them communicating in the photographs. Maria stoops down, head-to-head. The donkeys lean into her and read her emotions, they frequently send her messages, and she messages them. These messages often show up in her art, and I never tire of listening and watching. They are often quite powerful messages, it is for her, not me, to write about them.
I have a gift of communicating with dogs, and sometimes with donkeys. My dogs and I have always communicated through emotions, food, body language and visualizations, I seem to have always known how to do this. Red and I talk in these ways all the time. It is a natural gift for Maria, it deepens and ripens with time. This winter, they donkeys have been struggling to survive, as have we. Too cold, too much snow and ice. This morning, for the first time in weeks, I saw Maria kneel down with Fanny, and I saw the two of them connect, listen to one another, and talk in the most spiritual and ethereal way. How lucky I am to be able to photograph it.