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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Mud Season

Air Date: Week of

Rick Bass and his dog, Auna. (Courtesy of Rick Bass)

Come March, it sometimes seems as if winter will never end. But despite the snow and mud, writer Rick Bass notices changes that indicate Spring is on its way.


GELLERMAN: March roars in like a lion and skips out like a lamb - and in between there’s mud - as Montana writer Rick Bass knows well.

BASS: At no point of the year are we more incorporated into the seasons, more completely owned by the world, and the woods. Summer and autumn, and even the first holidays of winter, are traditionally the seasons we think of as most easily summoning the joy of the human condition. Yet in February, March and April, the slog-o-matic mud season, never are we quite so owned by the beautiful world. Beaten down, made malleable as if by the accruing weight of the ivory snow itself, we become tempered to the very shape of the land. We become fitted to its rhythms and processes as surely as if we were buried by that snow and are pressed flat against the darkened ground, our bellies spooned against each curve of soil, each swell of stone. The snow above presses down, pushes on our backs and arms and legs, kneading and sculpting us, while at the same time it impresses upon us some deeper, unspoken counsel.

On the surface, there's very little difference. In fact, the sameness seems to be spreading, as the snow, which initially mimicked the sleeping shapes of every humped and curved and buried thing, becomes deeper, smoother, more homogenous.

Rick Bass and his dog, Auna.(Courtesy of Rick Bass)

But down below, things are moving, being re-shaped, even if only a tiny bit each day, by the mounting pressure. The bears and frogs are sleeping, letting the season pass on by. They're largely undisturbed by the snow's slow but powerful dynamics, and the songbirds, and so many others, have fled south, likewise disengaged from its incremental but forceful grip. But for those of us who remain, whether buried by the snow or shrugging off each day's mantle, we are always emerging, changed and sculpted a little more each day. The valley owns us as surely as it owns any of its rocks or rivers, forests or fields, or any of its other animals.

Everything still seems the same, in March. But beneath the snow, and within our blood, there are stirrings that tell us, in our own small changes, that the land is changing too.

[MUSIC: Jenny Scheinman “Processional” from Crossing The Field (Kich Records 2008)]

GELLERMAN: Writer Rick Bass lives in the Yaak Valley near Troy, Montana. This essay is from his forthcoming book, “The Wild Marsh”.

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Just ahead – protesting coal, past and present. Demonstrators take to the streets today, in 1914 a miner’s strike turned deadly.

ANDREWS: They understood, you know it was really their labor that made this world go round, and so they understood that by cutting off the flow of energy to the broader society, that that was really the strongest lever that they had to secure what they wanted.

Demonstrating against coal, then and now. Coming up - on Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Support for the Environmental Health Desk at Living on Earth comes from the Cedar Tree Foundation. Support also comes from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman fund for coverage of population and the environment. And from Gilman Ordway for coverage of conservation and environmental change. This is Living on Earth on PRI, Public Radio International.

[CUTAWAY MUSIC: James Taylor: “New World” from New World (Real Self Records 2009)]



Rick Bass Background

Rick Bass Collection, Texas State University


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