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Here Comes Mud Season

Sean Hurley
Sam and versus the driveway puddle.

On March 20th, winter officially came to an end and spring began.  But in between winter and spring, as NHPR's Sean Hurley reflects, it's mud season.

My 9 year old son Sam's bus arrives around 3:06.  The 200 yard walk to our house usually takes him about 3 or 4 minutes. But this winter something changed. Instead of getting home at 3:10, he was getting home at 3:20...3:30.  I could see him from the kitchen window, moving slowly along.  Spinning sometimes. Retracing his steps. Stomping.  So like any good parent, I hid behind the rhododendron at the end of the driveway to find out what he was doing.

Credit Sean Hurley
Sam breaking the ice.

This used to be my job.  I was one of the foremost smashers of ice when I was a kid. It was bad luck if I didn't shatter every long white window pane of water glass underfoot. And when mud season came and everything began to melt, I didn't stop stomping and neither has Sam.

It's a curious crossover winter to spring. It makes sense and yet is strange that winter, which is so hard in all ways, should be followed by such a thorough softness. That such a lock down should lead to such a great escape.

Winter trades in forgetting, canceling, covering. But when mud season comes it's like the earth remembers you and waves you back outside to a life you've somehow forgotten.

I step outside and 40 degrees feels like summer. I've forgotten the air can be so easy going, so relaxed. The quality of the wind seems broken and I realize the idea of the breeze has returned.  

My neighborhood looks like a wet cat waking up in an unmade bed.  Like we didn't know it, but secretly we've been living on a planet made of damp paper bags. Long necks of sand, car-swept to either side of the road make a parentheses of the work ahead. The sticks to collect, the stones to pick out of the yard. The kind of gentle combing up of the land we do.

The trees and the animals turn on slowly in the forest. Bears rumble around still mostly shadows. But there's a quieter lifting up and pushing as the weeds and flowers and every leaf consider and eventually agree to try again.

And I suppose that's what we're doing too. We're as muddy as the yard, as rutted as our dirt roads, as staggering up as the grass and as shadowy as the bears. We stand at the end of our driveways, watching the kids stomp the mud we used to stomp, trying to remember just what it is we're meant to do now in a wind that's just become a breeze.  

"Daddy, stick your foot in the mud and you'll experience all the troubles I went through. Stick it here.
And what will happen?
Your foot will get stuck..."

Sean Hurley lives in Thornton with his wife Lois and his son Sam. An award-winning playwright and radio journalist, his fictional “Atoms, Motion & the Void” podcast has aired nationally on NPR and Sirius & XM Satellite radio. When he isn't writing stories or performing on stage, he likes to run in the White Mountains. He can be reached at shurley@nhpr.org.
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