Mud Time by Jamie Kirkpatrick


This is a difficult time of year for me. I’m restless; I want to get out from under all these layers; I want Mother Nature to stop teasing me with a warm day or two followed by another stretch of dreich weather. I guess I’m just ready for spring. Persephone: where are you??

Daughter of Zeus and Earth Goddess Demeter, Persephone (as I’m sure you know) caught the eye of Hades, King of the Underworld. Now Hades knew a good thing when he saw it, so one day when Persephone was out picking spring flowers, he abducted her, took her back to his dark kingdom, and gave her something to eat—I think it was a pomegranate or maybe even just a seed from a pomegranate. (According to ancient laws, anyone who tasted even a morsel of food in the underworld was destined to remain there. I don’t know why; you’ll have to ask a Greek.) Whatever it was she ate, Persephone was now below ground for good, Hades’ consort in the cold, dark Underworld.

That might have been the end of the story but of course it wasn’t. You see, mothers don’t like it when their daughters are abducted so Demeter (Persephone’s mother) complained to Zeus (Persephone’s father) about Hades’ (Persephone’s newly minted husband) rude behavior. Hades preferred to keep Persephone in the proverbial dark, but powerful Zeus convinced him to allow her to return to visit her mother in the light for two-thirds of every year. As a result, Persephone—did I mention she just happened to be the Goddess of Fertility?—pops up around this time of year, bringing with her…drum roll, please…SPRING!

So, please, Persephone, let’s get on with it. It’s time for you to grab your cornucopia and come on home. Patience may well be a virtue but I’m running low on it; let’s get this party started!

There are some hopeful signs. Eggman has seen a red-wing blackbird or two. There are buds starting to swell on the rose bushes and hydrangea in the backyard. The geese are gathering. There are baseball games on television. But every time I think we’re beyond his frosty grasp, old man winter wags his bony finger and says, “Not yet, my friend.” Sigh.

The all-too-appropriately-named poet Robert Frost was well aware of what I’m talking about. He knew winter could play possum. But to Frost, the seasonal axis came in April, not February. Here’s how he rhymed it in “Two Tramps in Mud Time”:

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

Maybe it’s this global warming phenomenon or maybe it’s because we’re well south of Mr. Frost’s beloved Vermont, but my axis—my personal mud time—is right now, late February, early March. That’s when I begin itching to get out on the golf course, to put away mittens. hat, and gloves, to move the hammock from its winter pasture behind the shed to its rightful place in the sunny backyard. And that’s why now, like Motel 6, every night before I go to sleep, I leave the porch light on for Persephone.

I know; I know. All too soon, we’ll be complaining about the heat and humidity, but right now that’s a chance I’m willing to take. Mud time be gone! Break out the shorts! Find the flip-flops! Bartender: pour me a gin and tonic!

Who’s with me?

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is

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