A Little Later Will Come Maple-Sugar Time, When
The Stately Maples Are Tapped As The Sap Begins To Stir,
with absurd little buckets (a cow being milked into a thimble gives some
idea of the disproportion)
, Which are emptied into cauldrons.
Afterwards (this is the time of the 'sugaring-off parties') you pour the
boiled syrup into tins full of fresh snow, where it hardens, and you
pretend to help and become very sticky and make love, boys and girls
together. Even the introduction of patent sugar evaporators has not
spoiled the love-making.
There is a certain scarcity of men to make love with; not so much in
towns which have their own manufactories and lie within a lover's
Sabbath-day journey of New York, but in the farms and villages. The men
have gone away - the young men are fighting fortune further West, and the
women remain - remain for ever as women must. On the farms, when the
children depart, the old man and the old woman strive to hold things
together without help, and the woman's portion is work and monotony.
Sometimes she goes mad to an extent which appreciably affects statistics
and is put down in census reports. More often, let us hope, she dies. In
the villages where the necessity for heavy work is not so urgent the
women find consolation in the formation of literary clubs and circles,
and so gather to themselves a great deal of wisdom in their own way.
That way is not altogether lovely. They desire facts and the knowledge
that they are at a certain page in a German or an Italian book before a
certain time, or that they have read the proper books in a proper way.
At any rate, they have something to do that seems as if they were doing
something. It has been said that the New England stories are cramped
and narrow. Even a far-off view of the iron-bound life whence they are
drawn justifies the author. You can carve a nut in a thousand different
ways by reason of the hardness of the shell.
Twenty or thirty miles across the hills, on the way to the Green
Mountains, lie some finished chapters of pitiful stories - a few score
abandoned farms, started in a lean land, held fiercely so long as there
was any one to work them, and then left on the hill-sides. Beyond this
desolation are woods where the bear and the deer still find peace, and
sometimes even the beaver forgets that he is persecuted and dares to
build his lodge. These things were told me by a man who loved the woods
for their own sake and not for the sake of slaughter - a quiet,
slow-spoken man of the West, who came across the drifts on show-shoes
and refrained from laughing when I borrowed his foot-gear and tried to
walk. The gigantic lawn-tennis bats strung with hide are not easy to
manoeuvre. If you forget to keep the long heels down and trailing in the
snow you turn over and become as a man who fails into deep water with a
life-belt tied to his ankles. If you lose your balance, do not attempt
to recover it, but drop, half-sitting and half-kneeling, over as large
an area as possible. When you have mastered the wolf-step, can slide one
shoe above the other deftly, that is to say, the sensation of paddling
over a ten-foot-deep drift and taking short cuts by buried fences is
worth the ankle-ache. The man from the West interpreted to me the signs
on the snow, showed how a fox (this section of the country is full of
foxes, and men shoot them because riding is impossible) leaves one kind
of spoor, walking with circumspection as becomes a thief, and a dog, who
has nothing to be ashamed of, but widens his four legs and plunges,
another; how coons go to sleep for the winter and squirrels too, and how
the deer on the Canada border trample down deep paths that are called
yards and are caught there by inquisitive men with cameras, who hold
them by their tails when the deer have blundered into deep snow, and so
photograph their frightened dignity. He told me of people also - the
manners and customs of New Englanders here, and how they blossom and
develop in the Far West on the newer railway lines, when matters come
very nearly to civil war between rival companies racing for the same
canon; how there is a country not very far away called Caledonia,
populated by the Scotch, who can give points to a New Englander in a
bargain, and how these same Scotch-Americans by birth, name their
townships still after the cities of their thrifty race. It was all as
new and delightful as the steady 'scrunch' of the snow-shoes and the
dazzling silence of the hills.
Beyond the very furthest range, where the pines turn to a faint blue
haze against the one solitary peak - a real mountain and not a
hill - showed like a gigantic thumbnail pointing heavenward.
'And that's Monadnock,' said the man from the West; 'all the hills have
Indian names. You left Wantastiquet on your right coming out of town,'
You know how it often happens that a word shuttles in and out of many
years, waking all sorts of incongruous associations. I had met Monadnock
on paper in a shameless parody of Emerson's style, before ever style or
verse had interest for me. But the word stuck because of a rhyme, in
which one was
... crowned coeval
With Monadnock's crest,
And my wings extended
Touch the East and West.
Later the same word, pursued on the same principle as that blessed one
Mesopotamia, led me to and through Emerson, up to his poem on the peak
itself - the wise old giant 'busy with his sky affairs,' who makes us
sane and sober and free from little things if we trust him.
Enter page number
Page 3 of 71
Words from 2058 to 3077