Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Act !V, Scene 1
Here we are again and so glad to be here at last. This remains (I think) one of my favorite intervals in the whole turning year - these cold sunny days in early springtime when the north gears up for the maple syrup season. The Lanark woods are full of sugar bird (saw-whet owl) songs, clouds of white smoke rise from sugar houses among the old maples, and the fragrance of boiling sap is everywhere. The sylvan alchemy at work in the woods in April is wild and sweet, and the homely metaphor of the cauldron or pot has profound resonance for me.
I still have and cherish the battered Dutch oven I carried as I wandered and camped all over this continent (and a few others too) many years ago, stirring countless soups, beverages and stews by starlight and watching thoughtfully as sparks went spiraling into the inky sky over the rim of my old pot. The tiny motes of light rising into the night were stars too, and they were perfect companions to those dancing over my head.
These days, there's the stockpot on the stove in my kitchen, a rice cooker, bean crock and unglazed earthenware tagine, the small three-legged cast iron incense bowl sitting on the table here in the study. In late March (and this year) in early April, there are the farms and sugar camps of friends in the Lanark Highlands, miles of sap collecting hose in confetti colors strung from tree to tree, evaporators steaming away, old tin sap collecting pails and antique syrup cauldrons boiling over open fires to demonstrate how maple syrup was made in centuries past.
The night that gifts us with stars and enfolds us gently when the sun goes down is a great cauldron or bowl, and somewhere in the darkness, Cerridwen is stirring a heady cosmic brew of knowledge, creativity and rebirth, her magical cauldron steaming over a mystic cook fire. From her cauldron, the bard Taliesin once 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 when wild places begin to awaken. Notions of alchemy bubble away gently; sparks fly upward, images of pots and cauldrons both cosmic and domestic whirl about in my thoughts. I simply could not be anywhere else.