Down in the mud

It’s Mud Time. In New England in general, Maine in particular. It’s what they call the “fifth season,” that sliver of March to May between Winter and Spring when the snow is melting and the rain is coming.

Mud Time is a name that couldn’t be more appropriate to the condition. As the surface ground begins to defrost for the first time since around All Saints’ Day, a universe of mud takes over. Worse than driving in snow or ice, every field, driveway, dirt road, trail and lane turns to a soupy, sloppy muck. As one New England writer described it, Mud Time is “emblematic of everything that’s bleak and horrible about being isolated at the end of a road.”

That said, one of my favorite stories comes out of Mud Time. It is from an old, old storytelling vinyl that my brother, Toby, introduced to me when we were kids. Toby had a sense of humor that outpaced his age, and he held out hope for me.

The vinyl was called “Maine Pot-Hellion,” and it presented Old Maine boys telling Old Maine tales in an Old Maine kind of way. It was derived from a collection of funny stories with an understated rural humor.

This story had a friend describing to another buddy during Mud Time that he had seen a hat moving by itself steadily down the road. His curiosity got the best of him, so he wandered over and lifted the hat. There was a fellow underneath it. “Kind of muddy walking,” he commented. “Walking!” the fellow responded. “I’m on hossback!”

That cracked us up.

Creation in all its wondrous diversity is a reflection of the Creator — including the mud. I am reminded of that in the beautiful Old Testament prayer in Daniel, Chapter 3, Verse 52 and on. It was after the miracle of the fiery furnace.

In class at Catholic school back in the day, we read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I liked that story when I was a kid, I have to admit, because they sounded like a baseball double-play combination, sort of an Old Testament Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were three young Hebrew men who refused to bow to an image of Byzantine King Nebuchadnezzar. They are condemned to die in a fiery furnace. But they are protected from harm by an angel of the Lord. Witnessing the miracle, Nebuchadnezzar offers them title and honors.

Their prayer is a celebration of God and the joy seen in all of his creation:

“Let the earth bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever. Mountains and hills, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever” (Dn 3:74-76).

The folks of Maine Pot-Hellion could add: “Let the mud bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.”

In northern Indiana where I live, we don’t deal much with mud. Unlike New England, we really have only three seasons — a cold winter to a cold spring to a sultry summer introduced by thunderstorms and wind that takes your breath away.

“Every shower and dew, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. All you winds, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever” (Dn 3:64-65).

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Our faith is incarnational — rooted in life, humanity and God’s creation. All saved and celebrated in the risen, incarnate Jesus. The Incarnation is all around us. It is the new life of spring, the glory of an Easter morning sun, the warm breeze of an April afternoon. But it is also Mud Time in Maine and a Hoosier thunderstorm.

The world reflects the grandeur of God, the poet told us. Praise and exalt him above all forever.

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Indiana.