And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around. Lucky me, lucky mud.Kurt Vonnegut
Winters settle in for a long time in northeastern Washington, and when the snow finally melts it is replaced by mud, thick and dark, the kind that sucks your boots off when you step in it and creates deep ruts on the dirt roads that cause vehicles to slip and slide and sometimes stops them completely. It is worse than the snow, which can at least be plowed.
Still, the mud holds its secrets. While the gray earth is still saturated with snowmelt buttercups appear, and they do so with great abundance, splashes of yellow across the canvas, like a Jackson Pollack painting. The larch trees will not produce their tender green needles for another month. Even tiny blades of grass are still largely missing in action from this landscape, but there are buttercups, and they force me to get outside despite the continued cold of early spring in the mountains.
I am in a dark place in my life right now, which is no doubt why I find myself writing about mud. One chapter is ending, another one beginning, though at my age one cannot be certain about that second option. There are times when the darkness of this muddy earth seems unbearable, and I fear that I will be sucked into it forever, a single hand held above it, grasping at something; I know not what. Grasping seems like a good idea though, so I will keep at it.
And as every hiker knows, especially in early spring, there are still trails out there, many of them, and each one calls to me. Though most of them are still covered by snow around here, the Rail Trail is mostly snow free, and the mud can be avoided by stepping carefully. “Not long,” I say to myself as I look to the east and estimate the snowpack on Copper Butte.
Then I will carry my pack the few miles to the summit, pitch my tent, and spread my down quilt over the sleeping pad. I will filter water from the rivulets that flow from the remaining snow drifts and heat it for a freeze dried dinner, and it will be wonderful. This is something I know how to do, to make a comfortable camp, to find my way in the woods, to sleep in that warm cocoon of goose down.
In the morning I will get up and heat water for tea, read a book while I sip it slowly, and admire the view of the Selkirk Mountains to the east. Whatever is happening in my life and in this world, the mountains and the trails that lead to their summits have always brought me healing, and they will do so this time. This is something I know about life, that the season of mud follows the snow, and that buttercups bloom.