Stepping into a mud hole

March 19, 2010

Going for a walk with my wife this morning brought backs memories of springtime in my yard as a child.  For better or worse, I have very few childhood memories.  This is not the forum to discuss why, that’s just the way it is.  But I do seem to be able to remember the dirt road we lived on.  In early childhood it was a one mile walk to school, when I got older it was a one mile walk to the bus stop.  In the Spring, ice would form in very thin layers just above the water, and I loved tramping on those sheets of ice.  Later, as the ice receded I could spend hours playing in the little muddy streams formed by the ruts left by tires.  Maybe only a quarter of an inch deep, sometime much deeper, I would love poking, diverting and stick floating down these muddy paths.  And I would always get home a complete mess, with clothes and shoes going into the washing machine.

Still to this day I love tossing things into mud puddles, floating sticks down creeks, and otherwise playing where I aught not be playing.  And making a mess of everything.

In my back yard, on a path to our bird feeder is a hole where I stomped on a rodent in the dead of winter.  The rodent is still there, embedded in my boot print.

A few feet away is a spot where, nine summers ago I lost a shoe while playing ball.  I was running across the yard, stepped into a hole full of mud and water, and pulled my foot out shoeless.  Looking into the mud hole, we couldn’t ever see the shoe, it was gone.  I did dig it our and rinse it off, and it was fine.  But I had never lost a shoe in my yard before. It reminded me of all of the villains who met their untimely end in the quicksand pit that no one seemed to no about on Saturday morning television in the sixties.

Why all this talk about mud?  I had a friend step into a mud hole of his own making and it’s pulling him down like quicksand.  He’s not grabbing for a stick or a rope, and it seems likely that he will take others down with him.  I have conflicting feelings; part of me wants to toss him a life-line and part of me want to toss him a big rock, to keep the damages to a minimum.

In our relationships, we often come across the same choices I had as a child.  I could take the safe boring way home, or I could take the messy dangerous way.  One way I get home clean and bored, the other way I’d get home in trouble but somehow momentarily satisfied.  I never thought of the inconvenience and trouble I would cause my mother, who had five other children to tend to besides me.  It was a totally selfish and momentary decision.  Very immature and childish.  Like the decision my friend has chosen to make.

There was (and is a) third option.  There were at least a dozen friends walking down that dirt road toward my house.  I could have easily found fun, adventure, and maybe a little of clean, if not safe, mayhem to be involved in.  Choosing to go down the less dangerous walk home will most of the time keep us from falling into a mud hole.  If we choose our companions well.  But it can be every bit as fun and exciting as taking the muddy path.

And that’s what it really comes to in the end.  Making wise choices; about friends, companions, and what to do with the occasional mud hole.  As fun as it might seem, there are always better options, at least for grown-ups.

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