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Not Your Usual Writing Advice


of Spring


The truth dazzles gradually, or else the world would be blind.

— Emily Dickinson.

Winter, spring, summer and fall; we’ve all known the seasons since first grade. Yet anyone who lives on a farm in the Midwest can tell you there’s a fifth season—mud season.

Mud season doesn’t fall in a definite slot on the calendar. It might come anytime from February through May. It doesn’t stand alone as a separate season, but blends with winter, spring and sometimes summer. Mud season escaped my attention until I bought a horse, Lady Liberty. How it warms the heart to look out the kitchen window and watch a beautiful bay mare run through the pasture with her black mane and tail flying.

How it warms the muscles to clean that mare’s stall during mud season.

Usually I use a wheelbarrow to move the manure and used wood shavings from the stall to a nearby field.

It’s difficult to maneuver a wheelbarrow through mud, and impossible to wheel one through a muddy field, or through a muddy corral. Therefore, I opt to remove the used and fragrant items pitchfork-by-pitchfork into the corral until the land dries sufficiently to remove the refuse from the corral to the field.

The pitchfork-by-pitchfork method isn’t easy, either. Walking through mud takes effort, agility and an awareness of what is happening around your feet. Mud clings to footwear, making one’s feet feel pounds heavier. It’s not uncommon for the mud to suck a boot or Tingley (rubber shoe protecting a boot) right off a person. It’s not fun to balance on one leg as one attempts to pull the footwear out of the mud and replace it on one’s foot. And corrals tend to have more than mud underfoot, transforming the mud into a slime that is slipperier than “plain” mud.

If one wants to ride a horse during mud season, they first must catch it in the muddy, possibly puddlecovered pasture or paddock. Then the horse needs to be brushed. Horses love to roll in the mud, and it isn’t wise to put a saddle on a mud-covered horse. Horses tend to get cranky when things like mud chunks get caught between them and the saddle.

Mud season is a lot of work. One can’t avoid the season or stop caring for a farm or animals until the season is over. One must simply live and work through it.

Most people experience at least one mud season in their lives. I’ve come to believe most writers experience at least one mud season in their careers, too.

You know when your career is in a mud season. You tug and yank for words like a person working a slime-stolen boot out of the muck. You wonder where your balance went, and feel like a horse-lover standing on one leg while attempting to replace a boot—one false move and down you’ll go, and be covered in sticky, stinking waste and mud. Instead of energy pouring into you and your writing fueled by words flowing with ease, when you attempt to write you feel your energy slogging, like a farmer pushing a wheelbarrow full of muck across a sucking, mud-sodden barnyard. Mud season isn’t as debilitating as a mid-career crisis, but it leaves one feeling exhausted and discouraged and makes writing harder than usual.

Don’t quit writing. Mud season ends.

Post-mud season revelations can be fascinating. One never knows what treasures the ground will push to the surface, items buried for years. As I understand it, the items are pushed up by the freezing and thawing of the land during winter and spring. Mud season can hide them until the right moment.   

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