The Ocean in the Sap Bucket

While I was collecting sap on Friday, this section from Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane came to mind. The sap was absolutely beautiful, with a greenish-blue hue the color of the ocean (the picture below doesn’t quite capture it, but you get the idea). And, in staring into it, I got this sense of calm and wisdom, not necessarily my own, but contained by the sap, a collective calm and wisdom of the trees perhaps.

I’ve never thought of sap as the ocean until carrying those buckets of sap. And, I highly doubt Gaiman was thinking of maple sap when he was writing this, but the parallels between what he wrote and my experience with the sap are unmistakable. Here are a few relevant excerpts:

bucket of sap.jpg

“When Lettie arrive, the real Lettie, this time, she was carrying a bucket of water. It must have been heavy judging from the way she carried it …

‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘That took longer than I expected. It didn’t want to cooperate, neither, and in the end it took me and Gran to do it, and she did most of the heavy lifting …

‘What?’ I asked. ‘What are you talking about?’

She put the metal bucket down on the grass beside me without spilling a drop. ‘The ocean,’ she said. ‘It didn’t want to go. It gave Gran such a struggle that she said she was going to have to go and have a lie-down afterwards. But we still got it into the bucket in the end.’

The water in the bucket was glowing, emitting a greenish-blue light. I could see Lettie’s face by it. I could see the waves and ripples on the surface of the water, watch them crest and splash against the side of the bucket.

‘I don’t understand.’

‘I couldn’t get you to the ocean,’ she said, ‘But there was nothing stopping me bringing the ocean to you.’ …

‘Now,’ she said, ‘you step into the bucket.’ …

The second thing I thought was that I knew everything. Lettie Hempstock's ocean flowed inside me, and it filled the entire universe, from Egg to Rose. I knew that. I knew what Egg was - where the universe began, to the sound of uncreated voices singing in the void - and I know where Rose was - the peculiar crinkling of space on space into dimensions that fold like origami and blossom like strange orchids, and which would mark the last good time before the eventual end of everything and the next Big Bang, which would be, I knew now, nothing of the kind. ...

I saw the world I had walked since my birth and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger. I saw the world from above and below. I saw that there were patterns and gates and paths beyond the real. I saw all these things and understood them and they filled me, just as the waters of the ocean filled me."

Jeremy Solin