Most of the northeast U.S.enjoys four diverse seasons but Vermonters will tell you that we have one more, a fifth called mud season.
If you have the pleasure of living on an unpaved road, it is the coming of both mud and guilt. Our business lives at the end of a dirt road. Customers and students must travel more than 3 miles off pavement to get to us.
Somehow I'm always surprised by our fifth season, until the first time my car bottoms out. Then I remember.
This year had one of the coldest, snowiest winters on record. To give you an idea of how cold, I can tell you that a lot of Vermonters ran out of wood. Enough said.
I, incredibly, did not bump heads with winter this year. Incredibly, because I don't need a lot of encouragement to bump heads with most anything. This winter, however, I just threw more wood in the stove and photographed the five foot snow banks that tucked our home deeper into its surroundings. I decided to follow the rhythm of the season. We repeatedly got snowed in and each time we simply shoveled out.
There is a long, crystaline peace in winter, but then it thaws. It is now early April and the thermometer has finally broken single digits and pushes to fifty five. To celebrate we take our dog to the bike path in Burlington and are amazed to see people walking, running and skateboarding in shorts, t-shirts and even tank tops.
With spring comes the sap and exposed toes. We all feel the “push” with the sunshine, our clothing reflects the fact that we know that the seasonal clock has begun to tick and the time our skin is out from cover is limited.
We gobble up tulips from the store before our own bulbs reveal themselves so that we can convince ourselves that spring is here. To enjoy color after so much white.
The car that we drive in April is our “mud” car. Its only requirements are height and four wheel drive. It is the time when people carry tow chains alongside their groceries in their trunks. I forget what color the car is because it is iced with mud frosting.
Mud is the Everest of seasons, the one time of year when there are places you simply can't get to. At its worst, any morning travel can depend on last night's freezing temperatures to make solid the surface. When I schedule a lesson or an appointment I always preface it with “ what type of car do you drive?”
But one of the many reasons I love living in Vermont is the character and resilience of its people. Someone told me that “soft climates make soft people” and I believe them.
By the time April comes, I am so excited to not be in snow boots that I head out in little spring shoes, tiptoeing around puddles and globs of mud...only to sink, only to fail. And so, inevitably, out come my thick, green, rubber mud boots. No flowers, no polka dots to clash with the dirt,. Utilitarian mud boots. And I notice them all over Vermont. At the grocery store, at restaurants, school plays and music lessons!
But while I may feel guilty when people have to traverse the mud to get to us, I notice a certain pride of success on their faces and in their voices at making it to us. Everest.