Friday, February 19, 2021

Friday Ramble - Cauldrons of Light and Sweetness

It remains one of my favorite intervals in the whole turning year - the cold sunny days in late winter or 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 smoke and steam rise from wooden sugar shacks tucked in among the old trees, and the enchanting fragrance of boiling maple sap is everywhere.

The sylvan alchemy in progress is wild and sweet, and the homely metaphor of cauldrons, cooking pots and cast iron maple syrup kettles is dear to me. I still have the battered Dutch oven I carried while rambling the continent many years ago, stirring soups, potions and stews by starlight and watching as sparks went spiraling into the inky sky over the rim of my old pot.  The motes of light rising from its depths were stars too, and they were a perfect counterpoint to the constellations dancing over my head.

These days, there's a stockpot bubbling away on the stove in my kitchen. There's a rice cooker, earthenware bean pots and and a crock pot or two. In the cupboard are unglazed earthenware tagines and cast iron casseroles by Staub and Le Creuset in bright red. A small three-legged incense bowl rests on the table in my study.
In late February, early March and April, there are the sugar camps of friends in the Lanark Highlands. Miles of collecting hose in confetti colors are strung from maple to maple, and evaporators send fragrant plumes into the air. Tin sap pails and spouts are fixed to trees, and antique syrup cauldrons boil over open fires to demonstrate how maple syrup was made in times past.

The word cauldron comes from the Middle English cauderon, thence from the Anglo-Norman caudiere and the Latin caldāria, the latter meaning “cooking pot” and rooted in the adjective calidus meaning warm or “suitable for warming”. At the end of the trail is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root kelə meaning simply “warm”.  Calendar, calorie, chafe, chiaroscuro, claim, clamor, class, clear, council, hale, haul and lee are kin. So is caldera, the term geologists use to describe the massive crater formed when a volcano's magma chamber is emptied by a massive eruption or the chamber's roof collapses. The largest volcanic caldera on earth is the vast Yellowstone Caldera in northern Wyoming which is actually composed of four overlapping basins.

The night that gifts us with stars and enfolds us gently when the sun goes down is a vast cauldron or bowl.  Somewhere in the darkness up there, Cerridwen is stirring her heady cosmic brew of knowledge, creativity and rebirth, her magical kettle simmering over a mystic cook fire. From her vessel, 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 useful 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 old hen when her favorite wild places begin to awaken. Notions of alchemy bubble away gently. Sparks fly upward, images of pots and cauldrons cosmic and domestic whirl about in her thoughts. She simply could not (and would not) be anywhere else. Please Mama, let springtime begin soon.


Victoria Londergan said...

Such an engaging reflection and my heart shares your longing for Spring ... May it be so that what we long for longs for us back 🙏🏻♥️

Barbara Rogers said...

I will spend the rest of today looking around for cauldron shapes everywhere. I wonder if sap cooking smells good, but I do remember the many campfires I've generated and enjoyed for hours, especially those with stars between the tree limbs.

Mystic Meandering said...

"Cosmic cauldrons" - I love it! :)
And the imagery in your photo of the old cauldron hanging in the tree heated by the fire - warming the wilds of winter days... magical indeed...

Kiki said...

During our years of living in France, we had to replace our CHAUDIERE, the heating.... another ‘side line’ of cauldron! And very warming....
I still buy the occasional maple syrup at astronomical cost - just because once, loooong time ago, I lived in Toronto for less than 2 years! Memories...

Debbie Grace said...

Enjoyed reading this post so much!!

Sending much love your way, this day, dearest!

A great big, warm hug, too.

Much love
Debbie Grace
who is still trustin'