Monday, March 9, 2009

I can't tell you why.

People who live in soft places like LA or North Carolina sometimes ask why anyone lives in New Hampshire, where the summers are hot and humid and the winters are cold and bleak. Normally I just smile and say, "Why not?"

Every place on earth has its meteorological crosses to bear, after all. LA is a desert, and after three years of drought in California the vast efforts at irrigation and drinking water collection that prop people up are starting to collapse. North Carolina gets a lot more hurricanes than New England, and its summers are longer, hotter, and more humid than ours.

But today, as I prepare to head out the door, slog through four to seven inches of wet, sticky snow that has fallen on top of several inches of mud produced by two days of rapid thaws, I can sort of see their point. Today is not a weather day that will get lots of attention from the national media. This is the sort of weather that is really just an inconvenience to those who live in populated areas where all the roads are paved. It'll snow, it'll melt. But in the parts of New Hampshire where we still rely heavily on dirt roads, this time of year is the worst.

Mud season can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Four wheel drive and all wheel drive are helpful, to be sure, but they will not save you from being slung about by ruts, and there are times when what you really need are tracks to stay atop the road surface. Anything with wheels is doomed. Chains slip off the wheels and do no good anyway.

Adding a half foot of what we call "sugar snow," the slick, wet snot that falls this time of year, to the mix only makes it more challenging. Walking is complicated by the fact that just when you think your foot has found purchase on the earth under the snow, the mud under your foot slides, and you end up doing a sort of camel walk. Place one foot down, put your weight on it. Pull the other foot out of the mud and bring it forward. Repeat.

The cold of winter is bracing, and enjoyable to me. The crazy fecundity of springtime is wonderful. The warmth and bounty of summer fills me with joy. And of course, our fall foliage is world famous with its cool nights and brisk days. But mud season just plain sucks. Its the one part of New Hampshire's climate for which I can find no redeeming value.

But there's no denying it. I must head out into this mix of stinking mud and snotty wet snow and face my day. It'll be one of limited productivity outside, but perhaps it'll be a good day to catch up on some desk work in the afternoon.

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