Muddy Wildernesses of Words

Hope is for the dark days. The days when all you can see is mud and mess, like so many forgotten toys strewn across the backyard. Those are the days when miracles begin. — Christie Purifoy in Roots and Sky

The farmyard is sticky and squishy and all the things that children seem built to adore and adults spend a lot of time avoiding or tidying as soon as they arrive.

I am clearly now an adult because I so want this mud to go away. I’m tired of walking to the sound of Noah’s flood beneath my feet and having to slide carefully rather than sprint with abandon to avoid the rooster. I’m ready for the hounds Mosey and Meander to come in without me thinking about how to attach mop heads to their tiny, wide feet.

But more than mud’s absence, I’m ready for green and growth, for the tiny haunt of grass to cover the bare spots and the way the walnut puts on her crown before she dons her shirt.

I’m ready for the beautiful wilderness of winter to end.

I almost want to feel hopeless just now, with the mud and the flat-lined report on my book sales figures. I almost want to succumb to the tang of jealousy when a friend gets an interview I ache to have. I almost want to settle in with a bag of marshmallows and all of Supernatural Season 10. I almost want to say that the 1,000 words I’m writing each morning are terrible, rubbish, only useful as examples of what not to do.

I almost want to quit into the easiest thing — give my seed packets to a friend and rely on the good people of Watsonville and a fleet of truckers and petroleum for my strawberries.

Almost. And Almost is what matters. It’s the level that lifts the rolling door around my hope and keeps it from slamming shut.

I have learned that I have to feed Almost. She’s like a bear coming out of hibernation, ravenous for anything to satisfy her hunger. So I stuff more words into her maw and organize my potting shed and share the amazing work of my friends who write with such beauty that it leaves my teeth sore with joy.

Marshmallows are only sustenance for despair. But Almost, she’s the work of big hands doing miracle things in the places I cannot see. She’s the way a packet of seeds is enough to provide a garden of plenty. She’s the teenage girl who will read a book about a slave cemetery and find her way to history or anthropology or English when she has to check the box on her major.

Almost is enough to make me smile even when I’m about to step into the mud again.

When I pulled those yellow boots out of the bag yesterday, I felt my molars get a little light. My mother-in-law brought those bits of sunshine to our door, and I remembered the sunshine behind the rain clouds.

The birds on that mud-rejecting, ankle-girding rubber look like ours — like our Hyacinth, Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Dingbat, and even our rooster Xander. Between the golden yellow, the goofy sketches, the eggs we find every day now, and the way our chicken Turtle runs to greet me like I am her hope . . . between those farm beauties and the path of 1,000 words in the early morning, I know we’re coming on toward something good . . . even if the mud is slurping around it’s exact shape just now.

So all that’s to say, beautiful ones, grab hold of that Almost in whatever form it comes — your child’s laugh, a kind word from a colleague, the no reply of a submission that might become a “YES, please, we’d love to publish your piece.” Hold only to the tiny wedge-end of that Almost and don’t let go, not for all the despair in the world.

What’s giving you hope these days? In life big? And in words small?


Originally published at andilit.com on February 24, 2016.