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Ode to Mud

My first love was mud. In the backyard of the pink house in Denver on the corner of a street lined with other one-story tract houses, my little family lived. Mother didn’t plant, Daddy Joe didn’t garden. The bushes were scarce and scraggly, whatever the developer had set in the ground. Untended, like three-year-old me in the springtime yard in my snowsuit and boots, gloves off, exploring.

I loved my snowsuit because it once belonged to my older sister, my favorite person in the whole world. Marcee was only fourteen months older than me but a crucial fourteen months. She explained the world to me. She didn’t let me eat worms. That day in the yard of leftover snow, I didn’t have Marcee’s protection. In the shadows, the snow was still crusty as lace, but it had melted into full-blown mud where the sun licked, tasted, and found it good.

At this point, I wasn’t moving. A pebble had caught my eye and lured me toward the mysterious sinkhole. The rock shone white like a winter charm in the brown mud. I succumbed to its pull and wandered into the sucking mud.

I lifted one foot.

It didn’t budge.

Hands out for balance, I lifted the other foot.

No go.

I was stuck.

If I yanked, my foot released but not the boot. My sock skimmed rubber.

I quit that. I didn’t want a muddy sock.

I rocked, trying to free myself until my desire gave way to amazement. I was attached but free, gliding. I fell in love with the grounding mud.

Later, I would ensconce myself beside the tarp covering my Uncle Jimmy’s tractor and make mud dishes—tiny plates and cups with delicate handles—from the slick tan mud of Mamo’s farm. In college, on Easter’s Weekend, I would slide into the Mud Bowl where almost-grownups threw themselves onto their tummies in a watered field again and again until it was as mud-infested as God’s first creation. As a young lawyer, I would pat green mud onto my nighttime face, convinced It would leave me young forever.

All of that mud involvement was tame compared to the gripping hand of Mother Earth holding me in her palm the way Daddy Joe would raise me aloft inside the Denver house, showing off my balance on his own proud palm, until he died, suddenly gone, no longer there to brag and admire but buried in the ground himself, leaving me writing stories of the missing father, the dead dad, the forever-gone pop, the mud that held but did not bind, rocking.

Are we all controlled by our hauntings, like walking down a long corridor, constantly bumping into the walls? Is it possible to give up seeing this as a bad thing, let it float away like a beloved red balloon, fun while it lasted but a responsibility I no longer want to carry?

That day in the yard, in the grip of the mud, I was not stuck.

I was free. 

The sand of the Gulf beach rippled by waves, standing in for the mud.
What is sand other than mud beside a beach?

Denver memories, hauntings, stuck in the mud, what is mud

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