When I run into folks uptown, they often ask how things are down at the creek. These past two weeks I have not hesitated to reply, “A bit muddy.” Every morning we have awakened to the sound of rain on the roof.

When I open the door to head outside to do the animal chores, I can hear the roar of the swollen creek as it runs through the valley. In the evening, as I stand at the kitchen sink and wash the dishes, I look through the window and see the splash of raindrops in the puddles that have gathered between the blades of grass. And yes, all this rain has resulted in a very muddy creek valley world.

I have learned that mud has some good qualities. In ancient times, it was noted for its healing and soothing properties. A mud bath reputedly relieved tight muscles and removed toxins from the body. Folk remedies have claimed that mud is an excellent hair conditioner, and even today, modern spas apply mud to patrons’ faces to aid their complexions and reduce age spots.

By these accounts, all of our creek valley ducks, dogs, chickens and horses should have wonderfully loose muscles, not a single toxin in their bodies, beautiful hair and feathers and not a single age spot anywhere to be found. I wonder. Just before I venture outside, I stop by the ground floor utility sink and bend over to pull on my blue rubber boots. I tug the bill
of my ball cap low over my forehead to keep the rain off of my glasses and head out into the wet.

As soon as I close the door and step outside, I am amazed by the fresh scent that greets me. I breathe deeply. It is the beautiful crisp smell of running water and clean earth, with a distinct hint of evergreen from the pine tree that we planted years ago and now towers over the center of our gravel drive. I admit that I feel fleetingly thankful for the rain.

But as I step off of the gravel driveway and head out toward the animals, that feeling of thanks quickly evaporates into the clouds overhead. Negotiating my way out to the animal yard is treacherous at best. I carefully look for the least muddy spot to place my booted foot, stepping from one grassy clump to the next. The clumps, however, are spread here and there, and my course is anything but straight. Every now and then, I find myself completely stranded without any grassy clumps ahead, and I need to carefully turn around and backtrack or face uncertain slippery in the thick, oozing mud. The thought of a soft landing is little comfort.

The thought of a mud bath is daunting, so putting thoughts of clear complexion and age spots aside, I step carefully.

On those occasions when I am leaving the creek to drive up to town, I carefully sit down in the driver’s seat with both feet still on the ground so that I can check my boots before I swing them up into the car. If I see that they are relatively clean, I am good to go, but if I notice chunks of mud attached to sides or bottoms, I stand back up and make my way to the far side of the driveway to a thankfully relatively clean patch of grass where I
can wipe them off in the grass before returning to the car.

As I park my car uptown, I cannot help but look at the other vehicles parked around me. Many look rain-washed and shiny clean, but others, like mine, sport the side panel mud splashes that I have come to understand mean living in, and driving through, a truly rural world.

Whenever I return home from errands up town, our three big dogs are always so glad to see me. This past week, I have usually found them lying out of the rain, either on the front porch of the little cabin or under the driveway pine tree, but I have learned to stay in my car until their doggish joy has subsided and I can safely exit the car without their muddy loving.

It has occurred to me to simply give up and glorify life in the mud. After all, it is known to relieve tight muscles, condition the hair and reduce age spots. Mud on my boots.

But this morning when I woke up, I did not hear the sound of rain on the roof. The creek still roared. Water still stood between the blades of grass, but the sun was rising up over the far hill and the wind blew across a clear blue sky. A new, perhaps less muddy, day had dawned.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.