We are smack dab in the middle of what I like to call “mud season.” It arrives somewhere around mid February when the snow begins to melt and the water runs off the hillsides. The creek starts to flood and there is suddenly lots of talk around the breakfast table about tree bark boat races. There are now six pair of rubber rain boots right next to six pair of snow boots and that’s twelve pair of shoes not including your father’s. There are snow sleds laying out in the middle of a grassy fields and there are wet scarves and carrots scattered on the patio. My enthusiasm has melted right along with the snowmen. There are mothers everywhere checking the forecast and looking to the skies while praying for the month of May. There is also mud, so much mud. It doesn’t matter if you are getting the mail or walking the dog, you will come inside having gained five pounds; mud will be stuck to your boots, your pant legs, and your hair. This is our third mud season in the farmhouse and I think it’s the muddiest. Between you six kids and the dog, my life revolves around barn boots in basement laundry sinks and saturated clothes in washing machines. Yesterday we went for a walk in an attempt to cure ailments that included teething babies and cooped up six year olds and I found myself in front of the laundry sink: baby and toddler bums in one side and muddy barn boots in the other.
February. Mud seasons. Anxiously waiting for spring, clinging to the hope of sunshine to dry the yard and dry my impatience.
I think you will find that mud seasons come whether you live on a farm or not. You don’t have to be in the country to feel suffocated and consumed; you don’t need acres of property and six kids and one puppy and lots of creek water to feel like you are sinking.
Maybe you are 33 and you’re reading this letter for the first time. Maybe you’re raising your own kids and it’s that season between winter and the birth of spring and you’re feeling the exasperation of waiting for the smell of drying ground and growing grass and fresh mulch and tomato seedlings on your hands. You’re waiting for an increase in sunlight and an increase in vitamin D levels. You’re waiting for dry earth and dry boots.
Today, on February 13, 2018, the day before Valentine’s day, which also happens to be Ash Wednesday, I was putting fresh plaster on the walls of the hallway staircase. As I was filling in the cracks and crevices so that the paint will lay smooth, I was thinking about how I want to fill up every square inch of these hallway walls with all the mismatched wooden picture frames I can find. Just wooden frame after wooden frame after wooden frame. When I am done it will be a wallpaper of photos made from all of my most favorite candid photos of you all. Photos of you and Dad, the puppy, our soon to be flock of chickens and ducks, ponies and horses. So many moments that are etched on my heart will be hung on the walls, a permanent picture book of memories.
One of the first photos will be of you, Augustine, playing in the rocks and mud of Mingo Creek Park while your dad was trout fishing when you were just one year old. You were wearing a semi-serious, semi-full smile and also my most favorite red baseball cap that I stole from your dad. Nine years later I am still wearing that hat and you are still wearing that smile.
The photo of you Regina, while you are sharing a popsicle with your sister Adelina, in the backyard of our first home in the suburbs. Behind you is our little garden and you are only one year old, little Gigi, you can barely walk but you’re holding onto the shoulders of your sister and licking up the sticky sweetness.
The photo I took of you kids with Dad, the first spring in the farmhouse, his arms are wrapped around you all and everyone is tired and hungry after a long day working outside. But he’s talking about polar bears and other large predators and everyone is hanging onto his words. I remember clearly how this memory warmed my heart while I was warming dinner and how I snapped this photo through the kitchen window without any of you ever knowing.
I’m going to keep hanging photos until I’m ninety years old. They will all be hanging just a little bit wonky. The imperfection of their placement will match the imperfection of the frames and also the imperfection of all the mundane but magnificent moments of our lives. And maybe when I’m ninety you will come for Christmas and give me a picture of my grandbabies playing in the mud down at the creek and when you are hanging that sweet picture on that last remaining square inches of wall space you will realize that all the mud seasons are just part of the bigger season of life. You will come to know that sprinkled among the mud are all the sanctifying holy moments that make up the hidden life that is family life. And when you are thirty three and walking slowly back down the staircase reliving all of the moments of your childhood mounted on the wall, keep in mind that each and every mud season is always and forever tied to the springtime. There is worthiness in the waiting and in the wading.
And if that still doesn’t console your wet and dreary heart please remember that there are seasons in life more miserable than mud season, like July without air conditioning season. And that is why they say:
Perspective is everything.
song of day: “anchor” by Novo Amor