The dogs and I watched the old farmer drill holes, tap spiles, then hang buckets this afternoon.
I was eager to go and ask: wasn't it early, how long to fill up, does he have to move them around on the tree.
Puck and Miles were eager to rush out stiff-legged, all barks and sniffing and peeing on stuff.
Later, after the old farmer had disappeared, we checked out the couple-dozen buckets he'd hung on ancient maples guarding the ancient dirt road.
I stopped squelching through meltwater and rim-ice on puddles, the boys stopped huffing and bounding through snow that's been through a dozen freeze/thaw cycles ... and we heard it.
The centuries old sugar maple surrendering her sap to yet another assault from yet another farmer.
Empty buckets make the best noise, like a Connecticut steel-drum band, a rhythmic and tonal system all its own. I stand as still as I'm able, shushing the boys when they get impatient to find the next smell, next stick, next thing to pee on ... listening.
Now that I'm focused, I can hear tings and tunks and plonks up and down the line of tree, like neighbors talking back and forth after going away or hunkering down for the winter.
They're saying spring has come, bleeding to change the season, singing a tympanic song to the darkening day about lightness and warmth to come.
I look both ways for witnesses, crunch into the snow a few feet, lift the bucket lid, then dip a finger in and taste Spring.
My parents have fled the cold and winter storms of the Northeast for a week or two each year for the last dozen or so, and landed somewhere in Florida each time ... this year they invited me, knowing that I had the time and would probably enjoy writing outside in air that doesn't hurt my face.
I flew down the morning after a huge storm in New Hampshire, abandoning Gail and Puck and Miles to the elements, and JetBlued my way down to Fort Myers. The above shows me driving over a lovely causeway/bridge into the Sanibel and Captiva Islands Archipelago.
Yesterday was lovely from sun-up to sun-down, and I spent most of it hiding from the sun like it wanted to kill me (which it does) in a gazebo, typing and telling myself a new story, about a new world. I'm working on a Fantasy Novel titled (at the moment) "Oasis", and having fun exploring the world and characters and the trouble they get themselves into, and hopefully out of ... you can see two maps of the primary contininent of the world bracketing my Chromebook.
I drank lots of coffee, stopped for brief swims every hour or two, and kept my eyes and ears open for the promised alligators (no joy, they were in hiding apparently).
This guy sunning himself on a palm tree next to my gazebo worked hard to convince me that he was an alligator, just little (or far away ... he tried it both ways).
After my final chunk of writing for the day I took a long swim and stretch in the pool and then walked the pretty beach for a bit, finding this little shell on my way back, in a pile of discards, which for some reason made me feel badly for it.
It was a wonderful first day, I got some good writing done (although not putting up the numbers I would have liked, in a perfect world), and I'm looking forward to the next couple of days of writing and swimming and possible alligator-baiting down here in paradise, before returning to my other paradise ... home with Gail and Puck and Miles.
I'm about ready to start typing.
I've been prepping for writing my next novel, "Oasis" for a while, and it's working. My head is full of story and characters and conflict and the world in which the story will take place.
There's a map of the world (more than one, actually), and some geo-biographies about all of the major and minor provinces. I know the twenty first and second tier characters pretty well. The arc of the story is planned out in some detail (I like to signpost major points, and then let the path from point to point write itself with the help of my fingers and the lunatics living in the back of my skull). I have enough coffee on-deck and ready to go to get the Mormon Tabernacle Choir jittery until the end of winter.
Now, it's time to begin ... it's as simple, and as difficult, as that.
Stephen King was right. I've done it before, but it's still scary ... every time.
I just need to acknowledge that the planning is done, and that the time has come to start flinging words at the wall, in the hope that something worthwhile will stick.
The first draft of any story is rough and ugly and messy, but it allows you to move on to the following steps, in which you hopefully prune and graft and polish your ideas into a book that you can be proud of ... and that people enjoy reading.
I have to remind myself every time that I'm just letting the story out of my head to play for the first time: that it doesn't need to be perfect, that I can fix it in later iterations, that the worst draft on paper is better than the best story living in my head.
I don't necessarily agree with this sentiment (although who am I to disagree with Ernest?), but I like to think I understand where he was coming from, what he meant, when he said it.
Nobody writes a polished story in one draft. Nobody.
The best you can hope for is to give a fair approximation of the story, and by exposing it to the light of day, give yourself a chance to keep working on it over time to get it over the finish line.
My job over the next several weeks, maybe months (hard to say, I've never written a fantasy novel before), is to relax into the daily chaos of writing, exploring, transcribing, inventing, documenting the adventures of a group of characters I'm still getting to know in a world that nobody has ever visited before.
I'm excited and scared and eager and ready.
Wish me luck,