Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Act !V, Scene 1
Here we are again, and it feels good to be here. This remains (I think) one of my favorite intervals in the whole turning year - these cold sunny days in March when the north gears up for the maple syrup season, when the Lanark woods are full of sugar bird (or saw-whet owl) songs, clouds of white smoke rise from sugar houses, and the fragrance of boiling maple sap is everywhere. The sylvan alchemy at work in the north woods in March is wild and sweet, and the homely metaphor of the cauldron or pot has always had profound resonance for me.
There's the battered Dutch oven I carried for time out of mind as I wandered and camped all over this continent (and a few others too) as a young person, brewing up countless soups, beverages and stews by starlight and watching thoughtfully as the sparks went dancing into the velvet skies above the rim of my old pot.
These days, there is the stockpot on the stove in the kitchen of the little blue house in the village, my rice cooker, bean crock and unglazed earthenware tajine (or tagine), the little three-legged cast iron incense bowl that sits on the table here in the study. In March, it's the farms and sugar camps of friends in the Lanark Highlands: miles of sap collecting hose in confetti colors strung from tree to tree in the woodland, evaporators brewing up ambrosial maple syrup, old tin sap collecting pails and antique syrup cauldrons boiling over open fires to demonstrate how maple syrup was made in the past.
The night that gifts us with stars and enfolds us gently when the sun goes down is a great cauldron or bowl, and Cerridwen stirs her heady cosmic brew of knowledge, creativity and rebirth round and round in a magical cauldron set over a mystic cook fire. From her cauldron, the bard Taliesin partook of a single drop and awakened into wisdom and song.
We're all vessels, and one of the best motifs for this life is surely a pot or cauldron, one battered, dented and well traveled, but still of use and happy to be so, bubbling and crackling away in the background (sometimes in the foreground), making happy musics and occasionally sending bright motes up into the air.
... and so it is with this silvery old head in March when wild places begin to awaken. Notions of alchemy bubble away gently; sparks fly upward, images of pots and cauldrons wild, cosmic and domestic dance about in my thoughts. It's a springtime thing...