The T-intersection where our gravel road intersects with the main gravel road leading to the paved roads (three miles away in one direction, about a half mile the other) is as mucky and mired as I’ve ever seen it.

Even though it’s showing signs of beginning to ease, Mud Season in Central Vermont persists.

There are things I dread this time of year, starting with the rapid cycle of thawing-freezing-thawing that ensures you never know what you will encounter on any road, even if you had traveled it just hours earlier.  On the way down the hill, you might be bumping along on what seem to be valleys and peaks deeply etched into the solidly frozen ground by the tires of vehicles great and small.

Then, just an hour or so later, as you travel back up the same road may have become a slough of slick ruts that can just as easily cause your car to go careening sideways as they can suck you into their deep grooves and craters.

Heaven help you if you encounter another car – or the UPS truck – heading in the opposite direction, perhaps straight at you.  Epithets, profane oaths, and likely some prayers of desperation ensue.

Getting through this season requires a combination of skill and luck and good snow tires (never take off the snows until Mud Season ends). Having the stars in perfect alignment may not hurt, either. It’s a crapshoot at best.

Local road crews do their best to maintain passable conditions, but the truth is that this mess is impossible to keep up with.

So, like it or not (mostly not), for these few weeks every year we adjust our lifestyle.  We take a little extra time to plan, and most importantly time, our trips “off the hill” to hit the roads when they are at their least soft and slippery, not only for our own safety and convenience, but to save wear and tear on the roads.

Mud Season has a way of challenging some of our most deeply held beliefs.  Most of us have been conditioned to believe that we are, or should be, completely in charge of our lives.  If we make the right choices, follow certain rules and carefully laid plans, then we’ll achieve our loftiest goals, as all the pieces of life will fall perfectly into place. And we’ll do it on time and under budget.

But Mud Season dispels any illusions of control.  It reminds us that sometimes our best laid plans contain flaws.  It can throw up obstacles in what we thought was a clear and direct path.

I’ve come to regard this season, much as I might like to skip it, as a great teacher with its own spiritual lessons.  It’s only when I give myself the space to stop complaining that I remember what I seem to need to learn year after year.  Namely,

  • Conditions are constantly changing without warning so…
  • Pay attention to what I’m doing right here, right now, a distraction might lead to dire consequences so…
  • Slow down, because you never know what’s right around the corner and, who knows…
  • Maybe there’s a trip that I could skip today. After all, do I really need that one item from the store, or could I substitute something? The thing that substitution requires is a little creative thinking, which could lead to more creative thinking…and, well, who knows what unexpected, delightful thing might come of that?

Here’s the good thing about Mud Season (besides the fact that it’s going to end eventually) – it’s undeniable proof that spring is here.  The earth is the final stage of preparation for a burst of new life.