The taste of joy

Quote of the day:

If you could bottle joy, it would taste like fresh birch sap.

This from freelance writer and songstress Laurie Sarkadi in her article “Tapping birch” (Canadian Geographic, April 2013).  As for what fresh birch sap tastes like, Sarkadi continues:  “think cold, pure spring water with notes of honeysuckle.”

Sarkadi is lucky enough to live in an off-grid, lake-front home in the boreal forests outside Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.  Surrounded by birch trees, she joined a birch syrup-making co-operative and found herself — a staunch environmentalist and conservationist — confronted with the questionable task of drilling a hole into the pristine trunk of a thriving paper birch tree on her property.

Despite her knowledge that proper tapping techniques wouldn’t harm the tree, Sarkadi still found it difficult to drill that first spigot hole, as if doing so were a violation of both the tree and the natural world she strove so hard to protect.

Her conservation ethic put to the test — and the hole eventually drilled — Sarkadi arrives at this conclusion:

It is the paradox of conservationism that in our desperation to save and protect our natural spaces, we lose some of our own wildness.  We put our trees into tree museums (as Joni Mitchell astutely noted) to look at them — like fine china that sits untouched — instead of building sustainability inside our forests in the spirit of cohabitation.

True balance with the natural world, Sarkadi suggests, sometimes means interacting with it at an intimate, reciprocal level, wounds and all.

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