Faith Matters: The grace of mud season

  • The Rev. Linda Neas works in her garden at her South Deerfield home. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Rev. Linda Neas in her garden at her South Deerfield home. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Interfaith Minister
Published: 4/12/2019 12:16:26 PM

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email religion@recorder.com)

The other day, as the sun warmed the mounds of frozen snow which resulted in rivulets of water running everywhere, I heard someone say, “Ah, mud season is upon us!”

Mud: neither solid nor liquid, defined by Oxford as a “soft, sticky matter resulting from mixing earth and water.” Here in New England, we know mud season well. We have learned to live with it, cherishing the memories of when the earth dries out enough to plant summer’s flowers and autumn’s bounty.

As I reflected on mud season, a comparison — a metaphor — came to mind. Our world is in the midst of a mud season. Life, like mud, does not feel stable. Many people feel stuck in the muck and mire of pain, poverty and pestilence. When this happens, it is difficult to remember a time when we stood planted on solid ground. The world seems filled with danger.

Certainly, one might feel that society around the world is in crisis. Many people are in despair from the constant barrage of hate, crime and terrorism reported daily in the media. At times like these, it may become difficult to be hopeful or to see a light at the end of the tunnel. When this happens, I am reminded that the word “crisis” in Chinese is made up of the two characters for “danger” and “opportunity.”

Mud season brings both danger and opportunity. Too much mud can cause all manner of problems, from mud slides to sinkholes. With patience, though, mud season also brings great beauty and stability.

The lesson is to take the opportunity mud season offers us to regroup, renew and rejuvenate our lives. For example, rivers overflow, bringing silt and nutrients to floodplain soils. So, too, the mud of life can enrich our spirits and bring us opportunities to grow, heal and learn.

This all may seem far-fetched, until we think for a moment of all that mud has to offer. We see the results of mud season when it has morphed again into solid ground.

For instance, clay is a type of mud from which artisans create beautiful sculptures, pottery and tiles. Ceramic tiles can be found in sacred places around the world. In ancient Roman temples, the mosaics of mythical characters can still be found. In the Basilica of San Vitale in Italy, the mosaic tiles create a labyrinth for visitors to walk and contemplate. In addition, the Blue Mosque and the fifth-century synagogue at Huqoq in Galilee both use tiles as an aesthetic and as a means to teach those passing through their doors.

Another example is the beauty and functionality of adobe. Adobe or mud brick is used around the world in hot, dry climates. The thick, hardened mud walls keep the heat at bay, while the exteriors can be left natural or painted bright colors.

There is beauty and versatility to be found in mud season. Mud can be used as a habitat for humans as well as providing a needed habitat for many creatures. New Englanders would sorely miss the clams that are found in their muddy ocean beds, not to mention mosquito-eating dragonflies that begin life at the edge of muddy ponds as larvae.

However, we need to remember that mud can also cause problems if we do not deal with it. The problems of life can also become insurmountable if we ignore them. A common example of this lies right outside many front doors. During early spring, driveways become rutted with mud. If homeowners do not smooth out the ruts before the mud dries, they are left with cement-like grooves that take an earth-mover to flatten. We cannot ignore the ruts of life anymore than we can ignore the furrows in our driveway.

Today, in the middle of mud season, we have an opportunity to change. We do not have to be stuck in the mud of fear. We can rise above the swamp of indecision and uncertainty. Just as larvae transform into soaring dragonflies, we, too, can soar above all the chaos of this life to find the grace of harmony and stability.

Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas holds a Master’s in Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. An ordained interfaith minister, she graduated from The New Seminary. She has completed several post-graduate classes given by Harvard Divinity School. She is a board member of World AWAKE, Inc. and an active member of both Interfaith Ministers of New England, and the Interfaith Council of Franklin County. Rev. Neas can be reached at revlindaneas2013@gmail.com and https://www.facebook.com/revlindaneas/




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