We just returned from Ward's Berry Farm, an agricultural paradise offering endless berry fields, a "farm stand" (grown large enough to function as a small grocery store, deli and smoothie shop), old rusty horse-shaped swings with squeaks loud enough to scare off any hungry wildlife visitors, a giant sandbox where both of my kids learned to either take turns or stand their ground depending on the day, and barns full of rabbits, goats, sheep, and cows. It is one of our favorite destinations, particularly this time of year when the baby animals are still small and sucking voraciously for momma's milk. I remember once watching a mother sheep literally kick one of her lambs off her udder; I admired her, as I only wished to have the courage to do the same to my ten month old who was still nursing around the clock! We had been at Ward's only a half hour or so when Lucas took a dive into a deep, thick mud puddle created by the tractor ruts and a recent rain.
In honor of the very dirty kids I just removed from the bathtub, I offer below a piece about an earlier spring mud bath. One of the pleasures of my daytime work has been the creation of a writer's workshop featuring staff and faculty facilitators and a small but talented group of writers who are put through their paces every month or so. The piece below was one of our ten minute pieces--ten open minutes to write on whatever prompt the facilitator presents. In mid-March we were asked to write about our most vivid recent memory. Here's what I shared:
The warm "spring will arrive" day beckoned to Lucas and Kyra, and they pleaded with me to go outdoors. The sprawling grassy yard and surrounding hay fields at Grandma and Grandpa's house were calling. From the bay window above the always-filled sink I could see the birds on the rows of feeders springing up and down from the red maple and the free-standing clothes line in the back yard. A woodpecker rattled away on the trunk of the maple as a brilliant red cardinal swooped in to the feeder.
We dressed for the mud--boots, winter coats, hats and gloves--and trudged down the splintering wood steps toward the shed out back. Our feet were swallowed up as we walked in the reddish-brown mud hidden beneath a surface of brilliant green--early grass. I was leading the kids toward the pond but they were quick to discover the patch of snow protected by the shade of the old shop. Dipping in one toe and then stomping in with the next, Kyra shrieked with delight at the splash as her foot thrust the snow into the puddle just below. Looking up for permission, she searched visually for my approval. No question was asked, however, so no answer was given. I was waiting to see how quickly the delight would fade.
Lucas came running around the lean-to-like back corner of the shop where Grandpa keeps his fishing boat, and he marched into his sister's discovered puddle without hesitation. The dirty brown water flew through the air with his insistent marching in his now soaked and heavy purple boots. I called out warnings about an impending bath, all the while trying to sell them on the wonders of the awaiting pond. I turned and walked, hopeful they would follow but certain they would not. With a sudden trip, Lucas was kneeling in the muck-filled water, cold and growing ever colder as the slushy water quickly dampened his pants. The shrieks of laughter turned quickly to angry cries of surprise and betrayal. It was time to draw that bath.