Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The Fifth Season
Anyone who lives in the northern climes knows that there are more than four seasons. Some think of that beautiful reprise of warmth after the first frost, better known as "Indian Summer", as a season unto itself, but it lasts only a few, precious days at best. Many of us who live where the winters are snowy have a different idea about what constitutes the fifth season. Right now, in this part of the country a new season is just beginning...mud season. Starting near the end of meteorological winter and lasting into the first weeks of the calendar spring, mud season is all too familiar to those who dwell outside of the cities.
As the snow and ice retreats with the slowly warming temperatures, yards and unpaved driveways become oozing car traps that rival the La Brea tarpits. Boots and sneakers get caked with brown muck, no matter how carefully one tries to step. Mac starts parking his dump truck on the asphalt driveway and is reluctant to try and get down to the barn in it, as the ground turns into chocolate pudding.
It's impossible to keep floors clean in mud season. Many homes around here have that handy entryway off the kitchen, better known as "The Mudroom", where shoes are removed before entering the main house. This is usually mandatory for family members and guests alike, to try and stem the tide of grit and grime that fights to get inside. We have a screened-in porch that works well for this purpose. Most people I know are not shy about enforcing the shoe ban, at least not during mud season.
The roadsides are a mess now, littered with chunks of asphalt, rocks, trash and detritus of every description. Snow-plow blades have destroyed the edges of the sidewalks and potholes and frost heaves dot every street. Things that have been hidden for months under snow banks are revealed as the melt commences. Car parts, torn envelopes, broken beer bottles and random nuts and bolts mingle with lost gloves and losing scratch tickets. Everywhere, a coating of sand and salt lines the streets and waits to be swept or raked off the dead grass next to the curb...sand, salt and mud.
If you have a canine friend, mud season is all the more annoying. Every day when Rigby and I come in from her walk, we must go through the unpleasant and time consuming ritual of bathing her muzzle, her feet and the underside of her belly. I fill a big bowl with warm water and shampoo, spread a towel on the kitchen floor and start the ablutions with a wash cloth, while she struggles to pull away and looks reproachfully out of the corner of her eye at me.
Some days, I glance out the window, prior to the walk and fool myself into thinking that things appear dry enough so that if we stay mostly on the pavement, we will be able to avoid the need for the half-bath that day. It has never been the case yet. She is pretty low to the ground and has very furry paws. By the time we get home they are black and her underside is wet and grimy. On damp days, when we have to navigate puddles and dodge the spray from car tires, she requires a full bath. Into the tub she goes, much to her chagrin. To make it up to her, I give her three or four treats when we are done, but she's still not pleased with me.
Despite all this, mud season is a joyous time! It means that winter's back is broken. The sun climbs to a higher angle in the sky and our corner of the world is definitely warming by a few degrees each week. If it's mud season, can spring be far behind?