"Here in purgatory, bare ground is visible,
except in shady places where snow prevails.
Still, each day sees the restoration of another animal: a sparrow, just now a sleepy wasp; and, at twilight, the skunk pokes out of the den, anxious for mates and meals…”
Earth’s open wounds – where the plow gouged the ground last November -must be smoothed; some sown with seed, and all forgotten.
Beside the porch step the crocus prepares an exaltation
of purple, but for the moment holds its tongue…
--excerpted from “Mud Season”, by Jane Kenyon
In northern New England this time of year is called the fifth season, mud season, when after a long and earth chilling winter, the ground finally begins to thaw out. It’s the season in between seasons, a “not quite yet” time. And this year with all the cold and snow we in the south have experienced, it is mud season here too. A time of natural transition. Winter fades, and oh so slowly releases its grip, but is not ready to fully relinquish its hold upon us or Creation. Days warm up with tantalizing temps and gaudy sunshine but nights still dip below freezing, the backyard bird bath a mini skating rink. Birds have returned and sing out but you get the feeling they do so with tiny scarves wrapped around their necks. We even use daylight savings time to trick us into thinking the earth is about to turn and yet the calendar forces us to wait.
To face into the mud. To trek right through it. No detours. No shortcuts.
And so for the next few weeks we’ll just have to wade through the mucky landscape which is March in Massachusetts. Scrape the mud off our shoes before we walk into the house. Listen to the squish of mud beneath our feet as we march to the mailbox. Shudder as the mud suck our boots downward on that walk in the woods with the dog.
Mud is a curious thing. It is messy, mucky, and chilly, especially in March. “Dirty” by definition. First blush might tempt us to conclude mud’s not good for much of anything but creating a big mess. Yet within it are all the nutrients needed for life, for the greening again of the world. That seed planted last fall in fact depends upon the embrace of mud to wake up and begin to bloom.
No mud, no spring. No crocuses pushing up, no blue jays blasting away, no green buds exploding on the branches. Mud is life. Mud reminds us that even from the coldest depths, life always seems to find a way to push up, to push out, to push through. Mud is the stuff from which God made humans. “God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!” (from “The Message”, by Eugene Peterson)
So even though a part of me wants to protest and skip over this sloppy time of the year, jump over our fifth season, I know, the earth knows, and God knows we just have to wait in the mud this March. Wait and trust that April is approaching, and will be delivered to us, faithfully, by a Creator who can take the mud and make a new thing, once, always.
Bring on the mud. Let the thaw begin. Let the slush give way to water. Give me earthworm filled dirt and spongy clay and bouncy topsoil waiting to be turned over. Sure, it may be messy. But it is our New England mud.
Winter is almost gone. Spring is so darn close. That’s the good news of mud.
The bad news? Don’t forget to wipe your feet before coming in the house.