2. Embrace the mud (roll with it and let it make me laugh).
We started this year in the mud, slogging around on January 1st on a Tennessee park trail. We were turning over a new leaf, and the south was turning over nothing but rain. But we were determined, two people and two dogs, to make this year one where we make the right choice over the third glass of whiskey choice. We were sober and grinning as we slid down one hill and slipped up another on New Years Day morning. Our short hike turned into a couple hours, and by the time we hit the grocery store on the way back, we were caked in a fine layer of mud from the waist down. Walking Jackson Pollocks, really. I laughed as my Someone grimaced and we slogged home to shower.
That’s when I wrote down my second New Years Resolution.
I’m an idiot.
I have this theory about the Universe– that it is listening and waiting for our next declaration. I call it the Universe instead of God, because there is something about God laughing at our pain that keeps me from loving God. And I am lately trying so hard to love God. Whoever that is.
The Universe, on the other hand, seems more reminiscent of a Benevolent Trickster. Like Puck. Or the Devil. Someone who loves the world too much not to poke it in the face while it is sleeping and delight in the spontaneous reaction. For this reason, I love the Universe. I’m not sure why it can’t translate to a God, after all. I’m working on one thing at a time. This year, it is mud. And I made the declaration and the Universe heard me and I have been stuck in it ever since.
It was February and we were T – 5 days from leaving Nashville. We will be gone for months. Or we will be gone not at all, because we are stuck in my sister’s backyard. In the mud. Our big ideas to store the camper in the backyard suddenly backfired after a cool-but-not-freezing winter full of more rain.
I did not laugh.
We waited a day for it to dry out. We were still stuck. We said angry things at each other.
We still did not laugh.
What we did, instead, was work through our things, getting rid of the excess, re-reading our old journals, giving up on our college goals of reading thick Russian novels and placed them instead into a box that would be traded for gas money. Having nowhere to go had us remembering where we were going. And we were rolling with the time we had left in Nashville. We may never live here again. Or, according to the mud, we may live here forever.
We rolled with it, but we did not laugh. Not until the tow truck pulled us safely out another day later. We would make it to our first show on time. We were on our way. Just as soon as we cleaned all the mud from the camper.
We are bad at lessons. Especially lessons we are asking the Universe to keep us accountable to.
We were three weeks later in Michigan, and we were stuck in a stranger’s yard. We were ankle deep in mud. We didn’t hesitate this time. We called the tow-truck. We didn’t laugh, but we didn’t say the angry things. Maybe we were getting better at the lesson than I think.
When I was working for my father digging ditches and laying pipe to make enough money to leave for a summer, there were a number of naked men who would appear. The first one I saw was at the base of the hill from the manhole I was clearing, and when I saw him, I ran to my father. He was unfazed.
It seems when you are digging in the dirt far enough and it rains, the thick mud lets loose a silky substance that is a perfect balance of clay, sand, and soil that drains to the bottom the grade and gathers in a latte colored pool. This is where the naked men bathe– in the silt pool. There is belief that this particular kind of mud, whose origin is quartz, is good for the skin and can heal anything from psoriasis to cancer. It’s a gloopy fountain of youth.
My father didn’t indicate that he believed in its healing property, but he didn’t shoo away the hopeful mud-seekers, either. But when I turned back to the manhole, he handed me a shovel.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“If he tries anything, just knock him out,” he said.
“It’s real!” Ash had said. We found ourselves back in Booneville, New York just a few weeks after Michigan. We hesitantly parked our camper in the backyard of a farm we played last year at this time, a bit more skiddish as we drove across the rain-soaked ground. “It’s the season between winter and spring– we call it Mud Season.”
We had planned a tour to follow winter, squeezing out as much chilly weather as we could before we find ourselves sweating and sleepless in our air conditioning-less home. But instead of traipsing through lumpy snowflakes, we find that we are only kicking up globs of mud. We have become more careful, rarely driving off of pavement and holding our breath down sandy back roads in Vermont. It had been more than a month since Ash warned us, but we are ever northbound this spring, and the mud gets only thicker.
In the south of Maine, we had enough. The dogs had developed a cakey layer under their fur and a distinctive smell that no amount of candle burning was eliminating. So we hosed them down and headed even further north.
Further north where Mud Season is in full swing.
“I’m only five miles from home, but it takes about an hour,” George said. He was our host and owner of the lone bar in Northern Maine. We were thirty miles from the Canadian border where, the locals proudly told us, police activity is at a minimum, and everyone has had to call someone to get them unstuck at least once this season. “See, it’s about three miles on paved roads to my house, and two miles back from the main road, so I gotta park my car on the street, hop on my tractor, and slug through the last two miles and just sorta hope I don’t get stuck again.”
Which is why, with our freshly bathed dogs the next morning, we chose to take long, easy gravel path through the woods.
The thing about Mud Season is that no one is safe at any time. We made it half a mile before both dogs were chest deep in the slurry lining either side of our best laid plan. My Someone grimaced. I laughed. Soon, the dogs were chasing each other, splashing it up, and full face planting in the mud.
“It’s a Fool’s Errand,” my Someone said.
“It’s Mud Season,” I said.
And then, it happened. We weren’t stripping down and soaking in it, just yet. We weren’t adhering to its healing properties. Maybe next year. But for now, we were rolling with it. And for the first time in a while, we were laughing. At the same time.