The March day Brian and I learned the hard way not to go down an unknown road during mud season, we eventually arrived at a beautiful pond which provided the photo opportunity whose results you’ll see in this post. First, however, we foolishly committed the car to a challenge it neither desired nor required to prove itself as a true member of the small army of Subaru wagons enjoying the title of “Official Car of Vermont.” Our brief but seemingly endless time lurching through deep ruts of thick muck proved not only the car’s mettle, but that of its occupants. It was one of those sink-or-swim situations, only this time the metaphor was a little too literal.
Broken and Unbroken
Memorial Day weekend at the end of May in the States is the unofficial beginning of summer. Here in Vermont, it’s the official end of mud season as roads and trails previously off limits open up again for safe passage. Of course, this being Vermont, the first official week of safe passage began with huge fast-moving storms, complete with flood and tornado watches, and, while nowhere near as bad as last year’s Irene crisis, (whose results are still sadly visible even as the one year anniversary draws closer), still with sufficient downpours to set us temporarily back to pre-end-of-mud-season conditions. Fortunately the June sun is a lot more powerful than its March cousin, and no one need fear losing a shoe – or a car – by taking a wrong turn this upcoming weekend.
Sunlight in March
Even though there was no real option to stop or turn back that day in the mud, I like to think that our continuing to move forward in a manner more like directing a small boat through stormy waters than driving, said something about our perseverant spirit. It was clear that immobilization could occur at any moment, and that being in that condition on a completely deserted and highly unstable back road would, in more ways than one, really suck. I could not even allow myself to think of this happening. As Brian gripped the steering wheel, I kept my eyes focused ahead, looking for signs of better conditions. I think more than once, and only correctly the final time, I pronounced “we are through the worst of it.”
Down the Drain
There have been times in the not so distant past when I had the distinct feeling that we were not through the worst of it, that, in fact, the worst had only just begun its foul work and was silently and deviously working on even worse bad things to throw our way, things with the power to take any remaining good things right down into the sinkhole with them. Even so, there was no choice but to move forward, and it had very little to do with wisdom, maturity, patience, courage or faith. Just like that car stuck in the mud, stopping was not an option, and the possibility of a better road ahead was all that mattered, whether I actually believed in it or not.
About the only good thing about bad times is putting them behind you. I for one do not believe that hardship builds character or that suffering is in any way good for you. Grief and worry are a big waste of time, second only to regret and guilt as useless energy-sucking emotions. The only reason we call the crises we endure learning experiences is that otherwise they would seem to have no meaning or purpose whatsoever. Okay, maybe after the first few times you toughen and smarten up, but most of us have all our lessons straight within a few decades and really don’t need all those refresher courses to teach us how to appreciate our loved ones, recognize the fragility of life, or answer our highest and healthiest callings on this planet. Hardship does not draw its value from being in the muck, it’s about what you do once you’re out. Like a white stone washed ashore basking in the springtime sun.
The Other Side
Although I have no tangible proof upon which to base it, and no news to report to substantiate it, lately I have been sensing that I am about to come out the other side of difficult times. I’ve been optimistically declaring this imminent shift in my fortunes for months, but this time I really can see, or rather feel, the existence of better conditions ahead. I am indeed through the worst of it. And this time I believe it, because it’s true. May all of you who are on your own difficult stretch of road, and you know who you are, soon come out the other side and bask in the sun again.