Because nature will teach its own geography lessons

I never realized how much I’d love living near a lake. It’s moodier than the ocean, probably because Utah Lake is so shallow–only 20 feet–it has no depth to anchor it. Today it’s a grouch gray-green, maybe because a storm is coming. Geography is fascinating.

That was supposed to be my post, and my thoughts, this morning as I stepped off the asphalt trail and headed through the beach area to get closer to the lake. I’ve taken detours from my walk many times before, to get closer to the ice sheets on the edges of the lake or watch the waves, and to take photos like this:

This was just four days ago, when the marsh, muddy ground was still frozen solid. See? I do know where to walk . . .

After I took that top photo of the lake and its gray/green color, but not liking the angle, I stepped backward a little for a better shot.

That’s when I got another lesson in geography—about mud. The last few times I’d been out here, it was 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and the ground was frozen.

This morning it was 38 degrees, and no longer frozen.

I literally heard the earth say, SQUELCH.

And suddenly my leg sank into the soft, cold mud, all the way to the knee.
I’m proud of myself that I didn’t swear, but only shouted, “Oh NO!”

Then I realized I could laugh or cry, so I laughed.
Then the other leg went down.

That time I yelled, “Oh, SHIFT!” Seriously, I really try hard not to swear.

Smartly, I shoved my new phone/camera into my coat pocket, then started to pull out my first leg. It came, but naturally left my walking shoe deep down below, with mud slowly closing over it.

“Oh NO!” More laughter, and great relief that no one else was around to see my mistakes.

I gingerly reached down into the hole and extracted the filthy blob that was my shoe as the earth burped another SQUELCH. I laid on the mud a little to reduce my weight on my remaining entombed foot, and pulled that out at an angle, fortunately with the shoe still on.

And then I had to get up. I crawled carefully to reedy ground, away from the mud, and stood up. No more squelches. Triumph!

Except I was encased in cold mud from my knees down, and about a quarter mile away from home.

Still laughing, and murmuring, “Oh, no. Oh, no,” I made my way back to the asphalt trail, about 100 yards through muck and reeds.

Halfway there I realized I could put my muddy shoe back on my muddy sock.

Cringing in embarrassment, I headed home, grateful that the gloomy day had kept away the usual traffic of walkers on the Jordan River trail. As I turned into my neighborhood, blessedly no one was on their way to school or work. They’d all left the hour previous.

Then I perked up. Today, Thursday, was one of the days everyone in my house leaves for work and school! I could go home, clean up, and no one would know how silly I was to forget that mud defrosts.

Before my front porch I paused to take this picture:

I wish you could smell this photo. It’s . . . unforgettable.

Then I kicked off my shoes and rinsed off the thick mud at the spigot outside.

I quickly made my way to the laundry room, and as I peeled off my jeans—and remembered that Utah Lake mud has a uniquely stinky stench—I thought, “No one will ever know what I mess I just made.”

As I swept up the clumps of mud I left behind, I thought, “But why not confess my mistakes? I thought today’s insight would be the moodiness of the lake, but really, it’s how quickly a situation can turn, right?”

As I shoved my pants, socks, and shoes in the washer, set it to heavy duty, and said, “Why yes, washer, I DO want the ‘heavy soils’ setting, thank you,” I realized I could share my ignominy.

But why? I wondered as I took my second shower of the morning (and it wasn’t even 8:40 yet). Why not just hastily remove all evidence and pretend nothing happened?

“Because I know what happened,” I murmured, as I lathered up my feet and legs a second time with the best smelling Bath and Body Works soap I have, because Utah Lake mud is REALLY stinky.

“And not just because by the time everyone comes home this afternoon, the smell still might be lingering. Because it’s important to realize that plans can go awry, missteps can cause great havoc, and you can laugh and recover anyway.”

Immensely grateful that I didn’t have a 9am class this morning, I lotioned up with another Bath and Body Works scent, but to little avail.

(Even as I type this, I keep smelling rotting lake mud, mixed with “Frosted Cranberry.” Work harder, Frosted Cranberry! Harder! By the way, this isn’t a scent that Bath and Body Works should attempt in the future: Muddy Frosted Cranberry.)

Now, less than an hour after my missteps and forgetfulness that the ground was no longer frozen, I’m cleaned up, dressed, and with my hair fixed and my online class ready. The washer is still chugging away, as it will be all morning because my coat and gloves are next for Heavy Duty treatment. I’ve recovered, except for the smell.

And you know what? I still love living next to a grumpy, gorgeous lake. I’m going to head back out again tomorrow morning to see what mood it’s in, and I’ll probably step off the trail again. But this time I’ll wear my hiking boots which are harder for mud to suck off.

(Really, I have no idea what I was supposed to learn today. Seems like I’m learning nothing. Take what you want from that.)