Mud, War, Gas

The end of winter

The hours bleed into days, the days into weeks, weeks into months. The snow recedes, the ground thaws, and navigating the backroads become a test: Of courage (or is it stupidity?), of skill (or is luck?), of sheer determination (or is it simple necessity?). Everyone says it’s the worst mud season in years, if not decades, and maybe they’re right. My memory for such things is scant, so I just nod along: Yeah, it’s bad. Mud and war. That’s all we talk about anymore. Well, that and the price of gas. So: Mud and war and gas. Hell, a fellow could get nostalgic for the days when covid was all we had to worry about.

In the morning I ride my bike while the road surface is still solid from the nighttime freeze. Just over the crest of the mountain, there’s a moose standing in the road, all leg and nose. I slow to a stop and watch, and I can see that it’s not healthy: It’s thin and its coat is rough. It holds its head at an odd angle. The moose looks my way, then slowly turns and begins to trot downhill, straight down the middle of the road, and since that’s the way I’m headed, too, I follow at a distance until I see it stumble and then I stop and turn back. I don’t want to watch the moose anymore. I just want it to turn into the woods and find a quiet place to rest and maybe even die if that’s what needs to happen. But when I look back over my shoulder, I can see that it’s still headed down the road’s corridor with its head at that weird angle, its gait unsteady, like a child just learning to walk.

The road pitches steeper. I stand to drive to pedals, and pretty soon I’m back up and over the top. And even though it’s cold and starting to spit rain and the road is rough and the sky is even lower than it was just a few minutes ago, I know that from here to home, all I really have to do is hold on for the ride. So that’s exactly what I do.

14 thoughts on “Mud, War, Gas”

  1. I just hate to see the suffering of animals. I feel so helpless to help them and know that in Nature’s plan we all must eventually turn in our bodies to our Mother and be no more. Maybe the cow is old. Maybe it’s her time.

    I wonder what your writing process is. Do you sit down, begin, rewrite a couple times and be done? That’s what I imagine but I don’t know. However you do it it turns out nice. I love that you can get it said in a few paragraphs.

    1. I think she was suffering from winter ticks. It’s a huge deal here, really hurting the moose herd. My process is sorta haphazard. Generally I get an image or piece of language stuck in my head (in this case, the moose) and then I just sit down and spit stuff out. Never really know where it’s going to lead. Usually I just do one take. I think this one took me about 20 min to write. I’m sure if I read it again, there’d be tons of stuff I’d want to change;)

  2. Oh that image of the sickly moose and our sickly world, and not wanting to watch it and just wanting to hide in the woods even if to die… As someone with a strong Eastern European accent, I get asked daily now: “are you from Ukraine? Is your family there? What do you think of the war?” Etc etc. The heaviness of the suffering of endless generations in that part of the world is hardly bearable to me. I just want to hide with the plants and goats and to somehow hope against hope that humanity is better than what it is. 🙏

  3. Ben, Thomas Jefferson wrote a piece known as The Testament of Freedom. The text has been set to music by Randall Thompson. I sang it in 1956 while in the Choate glee club. The analogy to the war in Ukraine is striking and has brought tears to my eyes. Listen to a version on the internet. “The God who gave us life gave us liberty……we have taken up arms……..we shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease”. Powerful words set to powerful music. (About a 15 minute piece). Bruce

    Sent from my iPad


  4. War? Where? Oh, everywhere, all the time. Better to pay attention to the moose and mud IMO. Those things aren’t controlled by psychopathic billionaires so they are safe. I don’t pay attention to their stories anymore, because I find being ‘selfish’ and worrying about the birds eating my oat seed keeps me saner, which the world needs, which is also just my opinion. Go get yourself an ice cream sandwich!

  5. I remember mud season, it happens every year in concert with maple sugaring season. The town road agent posts signs with weight limits, so any logs that didn’t make it off the landing when the roads were frozen aren’t likely to make it to the mill until mid-May, or even later. At least you can look forward to fiddlehead season and hope that the black flies aren’t too bad. Another Ben Hewitt story that prompted a trip down memory lane.

    Northern New England would likely be better off without a moose population, as they are easy to hit with a car at night ’cause they’re so damn hard to see, particularly when they are wet.

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