Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What is Mud Season?

Thawing Estuary at the Wells Reserve, Maine (cool summer arial shot in the link)

Following last week's post, I had many questions about when spring starts in Maine. March, and even April, is not spring up north; it’s mud season. This is when all the snow and ice melts. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it snows. More often, we get a wintery mix and erratic swings in climate. Nature is at its most capricious.

Last Friday it was 68 F (20 C) with 50 mile per hour winds. My son spotted a pair of bald eagles searching for critters, emerging from long winter naps. I opened the windows and doors for fresh air. Newspapers and manuscript pages flew like autumn leaves around the house. Sitting out on my deck, I tested my Kindle in bright sunlight (very good visibility) while six inches of old snow in my backyard halved to three inches in one afternoon.

Then Saturday morning I awoke to the muffled silence of freshly fallen snow and Bowdoin students away on spring break. Our almost budding trees were powdered white. The mountains in Maine get the most snow in March, but our proximity to the ocean “moderates” our weather. I went skiing out back yesterday morning (above) after yet another storm with more flurries in the forecast this week. That's our treehouse shivering in the woods. It's beautiful, but is this your idea of spring? Even mud season seems a misnomer. Don't worry: the mud will come soon.

Frozen Marsh at the Wells Reserve

Sinky snow, slippery ice and squelchy mud make the woods nearly un-walkable. At this time of year, I head to the coast.

Laudholm Beach, Wells, Maine

There are miles and miles of public beaches in Maine. During mud season, they are nearly empty except for the occasional dog walker, enjoying offseason privileges.

Dunes at Fortune Rocks

Mud season is no one’s favorite time of year, but it’s the price of living in Maine. Our winter brings fresh snow and bright blue skies; autumn has the most glorious foliage and summer, with moderate heat and low humidity, is perfection. Spring doesn’t really kick in until May, and then everything blooms at once. I love living in a place with all the seasons, even if I’m counting the days to daffodils.

mini icebergs at Laudholm Beach

Mud season is not all bad. There are no crowds. Days are getting longer. Shovels rest while snow piles shrink. Winter traces on empty beach are beautifully surreal. The sidewalks to town are finally clear of ice; the plowed snowbanks removed by front loaders and dump trucks.

Surf at Laudholm Beach

It’s also easy to stay inside and write on foul weather days. Perhaps that is why there are so many authors in Maine, especially in my college town. Of course there are academic authors at Bowdoin College but also several children's authors chose to raise their families here. My neighborhood friends include: author Charlotte Agell, my crit. partner; Newbury Honor author Cynthia Lord; young adult author Maria Padian and the Hunger Games editor Kate Egan. When we first met four years ago, Cindy Lord posited it must be something in the water, but I would add that it's the temperature of the water that breeds writers in our part of Maine. We've got a cool location to set our novels, in more ways than one.

When I crave spring, I visit your blogs. Thanks for sharing your blooms!

Blog Watch: Through the Sapphire Sky shared beautiful cherry blossoms from Japan and Signs of Hope after the Great Tohoku Earthquake. Sapphire writes from the perspective of a Kobe earthquake survivor.


Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Hello Sarah

I think, I would enjoy the mud season. The quietness is something I would love while walking on the beach.

Have a great day!

Tracy :)

septembermom said...

So peaceful and paint a lovely sanctuary picture with your words and photos. I need to get to Maine very soon. Beautiful.

troutbirder said...

Well you certainly put a positive and interesting spin on "Mud Days." Because of it I'm feeling vastly uplifted as I look out at a cold wet dreary March day here in Bluff Country. Also because a little story I wrote got published in the MOU (Minnesota Ornithoglical Society's birding magazine. (Baron the GSD was the star) In a small way I'm feeling like a real author today. :)

tina said...

I always laugh at the term mud season when I hear it from my mother and sister. What a mess. We don't really have a mud season here but do have mud days and those are any days it rains. Grrr. I hope spring comes soon to you.

Hana Njau-Okolo said...

It is always such a pleasure to visit and take in your wonderful photographs Sarah. And the diverse seasons you experience in Maine...! Variety certainly spices up daily living. No wonder so many authors in Maine, as you point out. Lovely lovely photos.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Such beauty in your capricious weather and landscapes. Thanks for these wonderful tours.

A Cuban In London said...

I love that term: mud season. And I envy your quietness, too. Then, again, being a city boy, I would probably start missing the hustle-bustle after a few days. I love the variety of your pictures. That's what I also love about spring, how chaotic it is. Beautifully disorganised. One minute you're shivering, the next one you're shedding two layers of clothes. :-)

Greetings from London.

Sarah Laurence said...

Tracy and septembermom, I do enjoy an empty beach best of all.

Troutbirder, congratulations on your article!

Tina, it’s still pretty wintery today but the snow is melting.

Mama Shujaa, it’s so nice to have you back on line.

Tricia, thanks.

ACIL, I’m a city girl too but I’ve learned to adapt to my climate. I’m ready to shed some sweaters but not today sadly.

Cat said...

I too think I would enjoy mud season (well, maybe for one season). You've captured it so beautifully in photos and words. It reminds me of our hot summers. We make do by changing the routine a bit...we stay inside during the heat of the day and venture out during the early morning and evenings. It is a good time to spend a lot of time on/in the water or inside taking care of chores that need to be finished and were neglected through the nicer seasons.

Anonymous said...

Your final photo is so very haunting and lovely.
Mud season sounds beyond miserable -- but spring will come sooner or feels a lot like later!

walk2write said...

Well, in this part of Florida we have sweat season while you're enjoying summer. Pity the poor soul who's not in the ocean or pool or inside with the air conditioning on then! It's fast approaching, so your beautiful snow and beach pics help me think cool thoughts.

debbie bailey said...

I visited Maine a couple of years ago and fell in love. Lucky you to get to live there! If you want to see spring blossoms, visit my blog. We're all bloomed out down here in Georgia. Bye!

Amanda Summer said...

i've often heard that many of the world's great religions were founded in cold climates, so i guess it makes sense that writers would find a similar solitude in such places.

reading about maine's mud season reminded me of growing up in minnesota, a place locals say has only two seasons: winter and road construction ;-)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Mud Season.
A tough time for a woman like me who shares her life with a big white dog!!

Jeanne Henriques said...

Great photos Sarah. You captured the best of the beach for me....when you have it all to yourself. It has been years since I walked along a beach in surroundings like that. Just beautiful in mud or snow.

Mud season is near and dear to me as I ponder over the best boots to buy. I never thought about having a tread and a snug fit on a mud boot, until now. It amazes me the choices that are on offer around England. I can appreciate why. Our front door is constantly littered with shoes and boots covered it in it. It is actually a welcome sight to come home too after a long day in the city ;)

Many thanks for your comment...I love your photo and your blog fact, I love everything about your blog. I seem to be having a love fest these days!

Best wishes Sarah

Jeanne xx

Rose said...

What a beautiful tribute to the state of Maine! Although "mud season" doesn't sound very appealing, your photos paint a very different and lovely picture. We often have similar springs here--I can remember snowfalls in mid-April. I don't really count on warm weather until Mother's Day, our traditional last frost day.

Thanks for your comment on my last post. I thought of how you must feel seeing the photos of Sophie. When our last dog Roco passed, it took me a long time to even think about finding another dog. But Sophie has brought so much joy to us; I know you won't regret talking to the breeders soon.

Carol said...

Sarah, Your beautiful writing transports one into your world of mud, snow and surf. I should join you along the coast. I love empty beaches. I tend to migrate to Wellfleet and North Truro (off season) . . . truly have not visited Maine in many years, though I know many artist who summer there. It is a unique place and I agree our longer winters inspire us to be more creative within our inner lives . . . mine in Western Mass is perhaps not quite as long, for spring will be here in April. I always enjoy your writing. Thank you for the link to Sapphire.

Les said...

Though mud season is something we do not have here, nor do I want, you seem to have the right attitude to deal with it and know how to make the best of it. Enjoy your beaches while you still have them to your selves.

Barrie said...

Mud or not, I think I'd like to hang out in your neck of the woods. ;)

Sarah Laurence said...

All, sorry to be so late to respond. My inlaws were visiting last week from England (and loved the MFA) and now I’m having internet problems. I’m using my husband's work computer but not for long.

Cat and W2W, I’m better with extreme cold weather than heat – it’s good that I live in Maine. We also adjust our outdoor time with the weather, waiting for the sun to warm the air above freezing.

Elizabeth, I heard that NYC was getting Maine weather. I hope you’ve warmed up by now.

Debbie, welcome to my blog! Thanks for sharing your blooms.

Amanda, interesting about religion and climate. Didn’t a bunch of religions originate in hot Mesapotamia? Very funny expression from Minnesota!

Pamela, yes, our home is cleaner this mud season, but I’m looking forward to a puppy, mud and all.

Jeanne, I have a pair of Barbour wellies (a gift from my mother in law in England) which I love dearly. My husband’s Hunter wellies are equally good. Those are best for mud, but for Mud Season hiking I prefer Asolo gortex lined leather hiking boots with better traction. A mudroom is key for living in Maine and England. It was so nice to read your comments – I love your blog too!

Rose, we’re expecting a nor’easter blizzard for April Fool’s. My novel S.A.D. (not yet published) starts with an Easter blizzard in mid April. It can happen. Mother’s Day is also the end of frost in Maine. We are looking forward to a summer puppy hopefully. Contacting local breeders is on my to do list. Once I get internet back.

Les, empty beaches are worth stomping through the mud. I enjoyed your empty marsh shots too.

Barrie, I wish you could join me for a walk!

Andrea said...

I always appreciate your prose and photos here in your blog. I love that term 'mud season', which might be common there to produce the term. Here in the tropics, during the rainy season it is always muddy in certain areas depending on the type of soil, but we dont call it mud season. We only have 2 seasons: wet and dry.

cynthia said...

I would love living in Maine. I'm not ready for all the color (and pollen) and fullness we have now in Georgia...

Bee said...

When I was studying Children's Literature some years ago I noticed how many authors and illustrators lived in Maine. It must be that combination of bad weather plus natural inspiration, but I think there's another ingredient, too. Can you identify it? Maine always seems, to me, to have that renegade, outlier quality that artists are drawn to.

March is full-on spring in both Texas and England. I can't say I envy you your mud season, but you have a well-balanced attitude towards it!