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Stephen Morris
           The Zen of Mud

What can you say about Mud Season that has not been said? This subject has been scrutinized from more angles than Camelís Hump. But Mud Season isnít about a season, nor is it about mud. Itís about the human condition and how grace is achieved through humility, the enlightened state. But, before you think Iíve gone squishy and New Age-y, listen to this:

The stretch of mud on the hill leading up to your house is bad, but testosterone overrules reason. Who does Mother Nature think she is, anyway? You are one with your vehicle. Your logical mind knows it doesnít help to gun the engine, but what is Mud Season, if not a time for stupidity? You turn the steering wheel to the right, your vehicle goes straight. You stomp harder on the accelerator, you go slower and sideways. The ditch moves closer, inch-by-inch.

The Mud Season neophyte screams obscenities and tries to pull the steering wheel off its shaft. The true Vermonter, as he nestles into the ditch, enters a calm state known as the Zen of Mud. You are not hurt. Your vehicle isnít even damaged. You donít have to call a tow truck, because when the temperature drops and the mud hardens, you can just drive out.

This is a time of great humility. Everyone in your neighborhood will drive by and know your predicament is directly attributable to your own stupidity. This is a time to reach deep, and understand that getting stuck during Mud Season is both a penance and a badge of honor. It rewards your male ego by showing that you pushed the envelope by venturing out when the rest of the world is cowering in front of daytime TV. Your soul, however, uses this time for serene contemplation. As you wave to your passing neighbors (none of whom seem to having the same difficulty making it up the hill), you experience true Christian humility, approaching Nirvana, because you realize how much worse things could be. Here is a litany of fates worse than Mud Season endured by residents of Beyonder.

High on the list is getting stuck in snow because you were too lazy and or stupid (or both) to put on your snow tires by Labor Day. The embarrassment is worse if you are in a four-wheel drive vehicle, or, shame on you, a truck. [Editorís note: In this part of the world SUVs are not considered trucks. A truck is something you can use to haul a deer carcass in or to take garbage to the dump. A truck does not have leather seats or a CD player.]

Worse than getting stuck during Mud Season is when your personal check is posted by the cash register at the general store with "Deadbeat" scrawled across in angry red pen. "Do not take checks from this person!"

Worse than getting stuck during Mud Season is when get your town report and see your name on the delinquent tax list. You only missed the deadline by a few days, paid a hefty fine, and now this!

Or, you open the local paper and see your name listed in the County Court Round-up, along with the other area miscreantsóthe níer do wells, drunks, and scofflaws that give this part of the world an edge of personality. Or, even worse, you are scouring the classifieds and see one of those "I, wife of, refuse to be responsible for any debts or obligations incurred Ö" Yup, it has your name.

There are things to contemplate from your ditch-side vantage. Count your blessings. You have not been arrested for drunk driving, nor is your picture in the post office as a deadbeat Dad. You are not even listed on the sex offender website. Life is looking better by the moment.

Worse than getting stuck during Mud Season is being pulled over for speeding, especially in the middle of town. Itís bad enough that the cop looks fourteen years old and was a classmate of your kid in junior high. But, why does everyone youíve ever met have to pass by while you are sitting in front a flashing cruiser? They honk, you wave. Itís like you are running for office. Youíd much rather be relaxing here in the ditch.

Humiliation can be political. Ask Elizabeth Ready, whose resume misstatements became the focus of her opponentís entire campaign. Or, what about the candidate for selectboard whose opponent spray painted her name on a giant hog that he left downtown in the back of his pick-up. Ouch. Thatís hardball! Rather be in a ditch any day.

As a parent, is there anything more character building (read: "humiliating") than having your kid sent home for head lice? Well, maybe one thing. A few years ago some youngsters decided to display their Mud Season defiance by spray painting obscenities on the school busses. Unfortunately, they misspelled the obscenities, even the four letter ones.

You are not even safe in your own home. You can, for instance, have a chimney fire that brings the fire trucks and all the neighbors. Mud Season is a particularly bad time for chimney fires, because you accumulate creosote during the warm daytime that ignites when you crank up the stove in the evening to ward off the plunging temperatures. Think this through from your ditch-side vantage. Not so bad here in the ditch.

Hi, howya doiní. No, Iíll be ok. Just waitiní for the mud to firm up a little.

Another thing more humiliating than being in a ditch during Mud Season is to fall off the roof, ass-over-teakettle, while chopping ice dams. These are the ridges of ice that form along the dripline when melting water meets cold air. The dams cause a build-up of standing water that seeps under the shingles and drips into the walls and window casings. You remove ice dams by perching precariously on a ladder and hacking at them with an ax. Alternatively, you can chop from above which is safer until the ice lets go, whence you find yourself buried headfirst. You stare, immobilized, into the ice blue light, wondering if this is how you will die, and wishing you could be in a nice, soft, muddy ditch.

But, that the Zen of Ice Dams, not mud.

So your life is in a ditch? Donít worry. Relax, enjoy it. You wonít freeze to death (probably). Turn on the radio. You might even find a Red Sox game. And the Red Sox are, the last time we looked, World Champions. It will pass. Peas will get planted. Om-m-m-m-m.


Stephen Morris

One Step Consulting
100 Gilead Brook Road
Randolph, Vermont 05060

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