Mud Season

The thunderstorms on the Connecticut shoreline move with ferocious intensity. During Hurricane Gloria, when I was just a child, my mom took my brother and me to New Jersey. My dad stayed home to keep watch on the house. He had no power for over two weeks. He had to poop in the backyard. When my folks were still young and courting they walked along Hammonasset Beach State Park bundled in Salvation Army coats and scarves. My dad layered two pairs of torn leather work gloves. My mom wore a six-foot scarf wrapped around her head and a hand-knit hat on top. Squinting out to sea through ill-fitting sunglasses they looked at a blue sky over waves frozen in mid crest. The temperature was a steady fifteen degrees below zero for days. I remember when southern Connecticut flooded. I road my Trek 820 mountain bike around the cul-de-sac through four inches of standing water. It was my first real bike, but five years from a license and living in a flat little beach town it was the steel horse I rode, the suicide machine on which I rode through the mansions of glory, the ship that could make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. I expelled rooster tails of flood water. I passed the Whiteman’s house. Kurk Whiteman had a garden with green fencing tied to green posts. I rode by and skidded to a stop when I saw snakes of all kinds wrapped around those posts, fleeing the flood.

I love extreme weather as much as those guys on The Weather Channel seeking to fill air time between reports. I grew up on the coast. I studied in the desert. I’ve made a home in the mountains. Here is the thing they don’t tell you: in New England, with all the extremes, there are many delays and doldrums. Back in Northern Arizona we used to say, “We have four seasons, and they’re all mild enough for flip flops.” The North Country should have warned me that beyond the four expected seasons, there are two additions. Once the leaves fall in all of their autumnal brightness, they leave exposed sticks that nobody wants to visit until they are covered in snow. Then, once that snow melts, nobody wants to visit our mountains until the lakes below them are warm enough for waterskiing and the trip’s only worth it if the temps are steadily above seventy with blue skies.

So here I scribble during the longest mud season of the last five years, probably ten years… I feel it is my duty, as I peck out sentence after sentence from my digital soap box to provide advice for my readers, my future New Hampshireans, here it is:

  • Get a library card, find a bookstore you love, bring your kindle, click yes for push notifications on the blogs you love – have reading material and lots of it. New England is an actively intellectual part of the world filled with armchair experts, yes. But the North Country requires intellectual pursuits in order to sustain one’s sanity through the shoulder seasons.
  • Find a yoga class, learn to love a stationary bike, kickbox, Pilates, or hang a heavy bag in the basement and binge watch Rocky while you throw sweaty punches and grunt, but for the love of all that is good, you have to stay fit during the long gray indoor days of the North.
  • No matter how much you hear it, no matter what your weather app tells you, despite all you hear on the local news channel, despite all that your “friends” post on social media, DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE WEATHER. It’s going to be gray and less warm than you want and you knew that because you read this tirade and so did your friends due to share functions and links and posts, and in real life nobody in the North Country wants to commiserate with you about the weather in the North Country.
  • Use your indoor time wisely. Catch up on Game of Thrones (books and show) before the series ends. Listen to the complete catalogues of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Paint with watercolors. Design and build a bookcase. Prepare meals from scratch and pair them with affordable wines. Clean out your gear closet. Look into Bukowski and try to figure out what everybody has been talking about. Decide whether physics is cool or just the only class in which you were okay getting a C. Read “The Elements Of Style” by Strunk and White cover to cover. Write a blog.
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