Glass. Packages. Blood.

My daughters spent years playing with glass containers. Sure, we also had the usual endless assortment of empty yogurt containers, the odd plastic collection, the paper cups such as the beloved Easter bunny cups (known lovingly as cups-with-bunnies), but we made and sold maple syrup for years.

At one point, wedding favors in leaf or heart bottles was a chunk of our livelihood. I made endless trips to different maple distributors, loading up the back of my station wagon and often around my daughters in carseats with cardboard boxes of glass. That 8oz maple leaf with a gold foil top? Top seller.

I packed and shipped maple syrup in the PO’s flat rate boxes. Those boxes made shipping syrup a viable family endeavor, and I knew all the post offices in my small sphere of travel. Headed to story hour at the library? I swung by the Greensboro post office. Picking up more glass? East Montpelier post office. Need bike parts? Morrisville.

I had a “well, duh,” moment this week at the post office when I weighed a package to my parents. The clerk kindly handed me a flat rate box, tape, and a mailing label. I asked for use of a pen, too, then stripped off my winter coat and hat, and went to repackaging work in the PO corner. I sliced my fingertip on the blade of the knife dispenser and bled on the label and then on my check. All those years, so many bottles filled with sand and pebbles, with colored water and concoctions of leaves and flower blossoms, and I don’t remember a single glass cut on my daughters’ little hands.

I ripped up the check I’d bloodied and wrote another, left-handed and nearly illegible.

Cutting into with the ax,

I was surprised at the scent of.

The winter trees.

— Issa

The Vermont Season of Pre-Spring

A number of years ago, I conceived an idea that our family’s financial salvation lay in wedding favors. With our maple syrup, colored card stock, a paper cutter, and raffia, I filled tiny bottles with syrup and bow-tied on little cards printed with hopeful things like Julie and Josh, July 8, 2001, Eat, Drink & Be Merry. Or: A sweet beginning. In the long run, my fortune didn’t lie there, but I met interesting people at profoundly pivotal junctures in their lives.

One April, in an intense mud season, a couple unexpectedly drove out to our house. We were deep in the midst of sugaring with a three-year-old. On our back road and driveway – and all around the house where the snowbanks were fiercely melting – lay mud that sucked at our knee-high boots with an audible glop. The winter had been its usual terror, and immense snowbanks mounded all around the house, interspersed by our trodden paths. My gorgeous little girl, with unbrushed hair, walked around shirtless in overalls and mud boots, a yellow plastic sand toy shovel in one hand.

The couple had heard about our wedding favors and had arrived to order in person. He and my husband talked about Ford pickups while I chatted with the woman. She kept looking around, distressed. It’s just so muddy, she kept saying. How do you stand it? Where she cringed from dirt and inconvenience,  I saw sunlight so intensely bright it lay like shining gold coins on the shallow dips of water that spread out all around our house, as though we were a ship on a rippling sea. I knew mud as the world’s thrust from winter to spring, the give from one season to another. My heart lightened with joy at the end of a bitter cold season and the imminence of wildflower season. I knew coltsfoot would shortly bloom.

…Soon it will be the sky of early spring, stretching above the stubborn ferns and
Nothing can be forced to live.
The earth is like a drug now, like a voice from far away,
a lover or master. In the end, you do what the voice tells you.
It says forget, you forget.
It says begin again, you begin again.

– Louise Gluck, from “March”