Sonny Brown has been sugaring for 75 years. He recalls going into the woods with his family when he was five, using a team of horses to gather sap. His father used wooden buckets back then, which in Sonny’s opinion, yields superior syrup.
Sap gathering has changed over the years.
Wooden buckets gave way to metal. Then came tubing in the 1980s, strung between tapped trees in a sugar lot, then run to a gathering tank. Now some large sugaring operations use sap pumps - like milking machines - to collect sap even more efficiently.
I know I’m tired when I start to envy hibernating animals. The woodchuck who decimates my spring crops is now snoozing away, resting up for this year’s gorge. Meanwhile I trudge through my to-do lists at all hours, every day. Something’s wrong. Weekends and holidays have become fair game for anyone who wants to schedule a meeting, a game, or a practice. And the encroachers have gotten very bold.
Johnny Caldwell only took up cross country skiing in his junior year at Putney School, now famous for its cross country ski program, but he liked it. At Dartmouth, he joined the ski team and participated in four events: downhill, ski jump, slalom and cross-country.
When Caldwell graduated in 1950, he stopped by the placement office, for advice on trying out for the Olympic ski team. The counselor advised him to, “Get a real job.” So Caldwell ended up teaching and coaching at Lyndon Institute.
Everyone says cockroaches and rats, both known for their astonishing adaptability and resilience to human attempts to wipe them out, could survive any eco-disaster. But there are some animals out there whose ability to adapt could put them to shame.
Tromping to the top of our wooded hill one winter day, I noticed hundreds of little specks on the otherwise pristine snow. I bent down and examined them more closely, very grateful for the excuse to stop and gasp for breath. The specks were not ash or dirt. They were alive and they were hopping. They looked like fleas.
When we celebrate Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, it commemorates when the Wise Men actually made it to the manger to marvel at the Christ child. It’s a holiday that celebrates miraculous change, and great claps of insight. James Joyce wrote about it a lot. And as an English major, so did I, throwing around the word “epiphany”, every time a character underwent even the most minor transformation.
The history of child rearing is littered with carrots and sticks. I used to think the idea of putting coal in someone’s stocking must have come from our fun loving Germanic forebears, but I was wrong.
Its origin is Sicilian, from the legend of La Befana, an old lady who, seeing the bright star in the sky, sets out to find the baby Jesus with some toys as gifts. Because she goes down chimneys looking for the Christ child, she’s covered in soot. She never does find Jesus, but wanders the world looking, bestowing little presents and coal en route.
Two decades ago I was at a museum store in Manhattan. I bought a book and told the clerk that I didn’t need a bag. She instructed me to not be silly as she wrapped the tome in not one but two plastic bags. I was so stunned, I blurted, “Do you know where your trash goes?” She waved a dismissive hand and answered, ‘Oh, somewhere in New Jersey.”
Thanksgivukah is a very rare event, so there’s cause enough for notice right there. But it’s also a most American celebration of our cultural diversity and wacky sense of fun.
First, the math: The Jewish calendar repeats on a 19 year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7 year cycle. So the holidays should coincide roughly every 19×7, or 133 years. The last time this happened was 1880, but there is no evidence that Thanksgivukah was celebrated as such back then.
Nona Monis was Dover’s Town Administrator for 17 years. When she took an early retirement this year, she wanted to do something to bring in some income. She happened to Google “virtual assistants” and was intrigued. Not only could she set her own schedule, she could work from home, select her own clientele, and do a surprising variety of tasks.