|Sugar Bush, Spring 1958|
Ah, the sweet taste of maple sugar made right there in the woods from sap taken from the tree. A taste of spring and incidentally where I learned not to eat anything bigger than my head. (Yes, that little guy with the maple lollipop is Rand, Version 1.3.)
Ask practically any kid whether they'd like a candy or a nice slice of raw onion and you know what the answer is going to be. We are slaves born to sweetness, delivered via one of four different taste receptors located in our tongue: 1) sweet, (sugar); 2) sour, (vinegar); 3) salty, (salt); and 4) bitter, (caffeine). It's all highly scientific.
What kids don't know is the real boss of the experience is the brain, which decides whether the taste is a good one, an interesting one, or one that demands immediate, prolonged spitting. And as the brain matures its preferences for taste, influenced over the years by a) experience, b) the amount of toxins that passed over and killed or maimed certain taste buds, c) psychological factors like guilt, peer pressure, allowability and rarity, and d) physical factors such as whether you have had your tongue cut out by pirates or whether your brain continues to function efficiently, all affect how much we like certain tastes.
As we age, candy tends to lose some of its allure (except for chocolate, of course) and other things become sweet in our minds. Potentially sweet things include music, dance, art, poetry, people who we like to look at and talk to (anything that activates the pleasure center in our brain), even simple things – naps, a nice quiet sunset without mosquitoes, making someone laugh so hard milk comes out their nose, a child's wide-eyed look at hearing someone fart, a quiet moment away from obnoxious people, when the bad guy in a James Bond movie gets what's coming to him. A dog at your feet.
And if we're lucky, it's pretty sweet when you still get to put one foot in front of the other every damned day... as far as the car anyway.