April 15: Marathon

GROPPEL, VINEGAR AND BANJO. These three are what I recall from a marathon boil, 2:00 a.m. Sunday til 3:00 a.m. this morning. Jake says groppel is the proper word for the ball-bearing snow of the past few days. Groppel also describes the heaping granules of sugar sand in the syrup troughs. Regular shots of vinegar stoked us, and the banjo strumming of Pete Seeger and William Elliott Whitmore smoothed the air in between filter press crises. But any wispy thoughts of the best run of the year - yes, that's what it was - dissipated by 9:00 a.m. this morning when a torrent of ice like you read about belched out of the main lines. Simultaneously, we couldn't run the vacuum pump without first mucking out the slime in the apparatus. If anything indicates the end of the season it is mucky pumps, tanks and lines.

RUNNING OUT OF DRUMS in which to store syrup is another indicator of late season. I got sent on a road trip to Hardwick to pick up some more. Leaving the premises during a sap run jars me, although I appreciate escaping the tortured drone of the pump. To stay alert I chewed gum and tuned into Vermont Public Radio talk shows. I could feel the grimness of the news working on me from the inside but felt too tired to turn it off. Someone recently said that even good talk radio, such as Fresh Air, is essentially entertainment. When I recalled this comment I came to my senses and turned off the radio for the trip home.

I stopped to pick up groceries in town. The cashier mentioned a bombing at the Boston Marathon. More grimness. I hadn't known that the Boston Marathon was today, but I recalled that Maple Trout Lilli's daughter, a college student in Boston, had stopped by the sugarhouse a few weeks ago and mentioned that she was training for it.

She is safe, and so are her family and the group of neighbors who trekked to Boston to cheer for her. In a nutshell, she crossed the finish line shortly before the bombing. Since she had her cell on her, she was able to rendezvous with her group. Knowing only that something terrible had happened, they fled by running four miles to Cambridge.