March 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
It was a spectacle – the trees heavy with a thick layer of sticky snow, the forest seemingly unending. The storm had a lasting, magical impression. I was getting a snow shoeing 101, all the while carrying a black, garbage bag full of empty milk jugs and a hammer. I followed my father down the long driveway until we climbed the snow bank and headed into the edge of the woods. My pockets were full of the metal spouts that were to be hammered into the trees. After my father took a brief scan of the maple trees in front of us, he mapped out our path and we got to work. I followed with the milk jugs as he went from tree to tree. He would survey each one to make sure it was healthy (and determine hard maple vs. soft maple) before drilling a small hole into the south side of the tree. Next he would exchange the drill for the hammer, and then pound in the spout. I would give him the milk jug to attach to the spout before trading him the drill for the hammer. And so we continued on, my nose running, and my toes and fingers chilled. I used my sleeve to wipe my nose and thought about the one and only time I collected sap for my dad when I was in high school.
The fresh air is something I no longer take for granted. When I was a younger, being outside was not always something I looked forward to. I liked being by the lake, watching the waves, on warm summer days. I liked taking a jog along the quiet road at the end of our driveway. And occasionally I would spend an evening sledding. However, I had never gone snow shoeing before today. I had never taken the time to learn about making maple syrup or helped my dad haul wood. Rarely had I looked around at the majestic, white forest and appreciated it.
Returning home doesn’t always have to be a couple handfuls of memories, running into old acquaintances, and visiting formerly cherished hot spots. Going back to your hometown doesn’t just have to be about driving down the main drag and pointing out all of the new and improved storefronts. I have learned that there is usually more to it than that. Our home can offer us a lot more if we ask it to. Returning can present us with new inspiration; an adult’s outlook on those things that we overlooked as a child.
My home, this time around, has taught me a lot about community – more than what I could have ever learned as a teen. After living in the south, the west, and a big city I have returned with a keen fondness for the people in this area. I am learning skills and hobbies I never would have otherwise considered if it weren’t for this great place. As a grown-up I am seeing the roots that I had unknowingly planted here when I was young. So for some undetermined amount of time I will continue to hone my skills as a tree tapper, snow shoe-er, wood hauler, and Michigander. I will keep digging up the great things that I overlooked, all the while thankful for snow shoes and second chances.