March is truly an unpredictable sort... mild like a lamb one day... and fierce like a lion as the saying goes... on the very next. Most folks have become increasingly impatient with these mood swings of manic March... but I savour them in my own way. Strangely... I am uplifted by the sudden return of geese, American Robins, cardinals and red winged blackbirds and their spring voices which I know herald Spring's not-so-distant victory over Winter. However... at another level, I really am saddened to see the snow and ice of winter rotted away... and with it the glorious light and blue shadow which make being outside so very different than other parts of the year. I truly value each season for what it brings into both my personal and painting lives. Beauty ... can be found everywhere... if the eye of the beholder can recognize it... and celebrate it.
This morning, we are again blanketed in newly fallen snow - at least six inches of it at present, with the promise of at least another day or two more days of intermittent snow showers expected to fall in this area. No newly emerged green daffodil shafts can be seen this morning... and I hear no complaint. They will wait patiently... for their time in the sun until this "robin snow"... as farmers in touch with the natural world refer to this late and last brief blustering winter presence. It can disappear in a single day when the now powerful sun of the longer day attacks it in every corner. This is March... the "quick change" artist's only legitimate claim to being predictable. It defies being nailed down... coming and going ... as it pleases!
I choose to find activities linked to the irregular rhythm of this month to focus on. I have observed through many years of experiencing March outdoors that certain human and animal activities are predictable... and are interesting to watch... and to record with my paint box. Birding is one activity which can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors as well. Each morning, Deb and I both revel in watching the antics of our winter feeder residents, as new arrivals join in the feeding and territorial frenzy. Behaviours change... disagreements arise and the pecking order changes. Great fun to observe and discuss... as the new action unfolds daily.
It is that time again when the production of maple syrup begins in our hardwood forests. It is a perennial activity of renewal... a rite of Spring really, which has drawn families together to harvest sap from sugar maples for many generations in some families. It was exactly that in the beginning when pioneer families spent countless hours together... gathering... boiling off and bottling this Canadian "gold standard." For it was... and still remains a lucrative source of income for farmers even today, although the lion's share of money earned today in the industry is governed by large producers with modern technology production methods. In the early days, the money was used to purchase seed to plant the next years crop and to provide sugar products for the home kitchen for the entire year. Refined sugar was rarely seen or used in those early days of settlement. Change as unpredictable and uncertain as the weather of March has deeply effected maple sugaring.
Here is a the ventilator shed... typical of most early Ontario farms which now lays mouldering. IT will likely never hear the laughter... have heat in its pans... or the sweet syrupy smell of Spring. It is something that I treasure in my soul. It is something which I still seek out each year. No spring would be complete ... except that I visit... sketch and collect a few litres of the gold to create a delicious Sunday pancake breakfast. That happened last weekend... expect it will repeat on this one as well! I record these sugar shacks... or "cabanes-du-sucre' as the French Canadians describe them as I find them. They are quickly disappearing... as are the old tapping and pail-gathering and wood-fire boiled methods. Tubing now constantly delivers the sap steadily from the forest to the gas-fuelled evaporator. The production is seamless and the volume huge in comparison to the older methods. However, as to the taste? There is definitely something missing in the final product... and over fifty years, I have sampled my fair share to offer this judgement call.
Perhaps... it is the human hand in touch with his land... or the ash present in the air which adds to the alchemy of the sugar house to create such an elixir... a tonic of renewal for Spring. Whatever the reason... I to continue to look forward to... and actively pursue and enjoy another Spring - to savour precious life. I drink it with great appreciation... gratitude and thankfulness!
I am deeply blessed...
Winter ... again!
Cheery red breast of a friendly male red poll visitor!
This cardinal didn't travel to Rome! But isn't there something divine and awe-inspiring about him... or his voice???
"Retired... Permanently!" - oil on panel 8x10 inches
Good Painting...and Happy Spring to ALL!!!