My friends Alfred and Susan McVetty live up in the hills of Guildhall, off the grid. Here is a poem that Alfred wrote recently. It is reprinted here with his permission.
I’m sorry that I am going to hurt you again
But it is almost that time
I’ve done it before and will again
You have always been sweet to me
And working together we have made things even sweeter
I will make it less hurtful this time
By using a smaller spout and bit
Every spring, Alfred and Susan, along with various family members and friends, tap the maple trees on their property on Stone Mountain. (Maple sugaring is just one of the McVettys’ many skills and endeavors).
When I asked what inspired the poem, he told me that this year, in anticipation of maple sugaring time, he and Susan had made a big change. They decided to replace all their maple sugaring spiles (also known as spouts). They’ve been using 7/16″ metal spiles until now. But the new ones they’ve purchased are all plastic and 5/16″.
Alfred got to thinking about the trees on his property and how the 7/16″ spiles can do a lot of damage to trees. Damage is even more likely if you’ve got lots of family and friends helping with the taps, because not all of those helpers will necessarily have the skills to drive the 7/16″ spiles into the tree properly and gently. He told me how the new 5/16″ spiles, when driven in, will make a tap, tap, tap, and then a thunk. The thunk is a reliable indication that you’ve driven the spile in just far enough, and no more.
He bought all new spiles because he wants to be gentler on the trees–in short, to be a good steward of the forest.
And that is what moved him to write the poem. I love Alfred. I love how in his world, practical matters intersect so gracefully with poetry.