For Christmas 1978 I received a 1979 Calendar. It was The Dennis Lee and Frank Newfeld Alligator Pie Calendar with delightful drawings (by Frank Newfeld) and an accompanying poem for each month (by Dennis Lee). Most of these poems I can still recite from memory. This week something twigged in me the memory of this poem (from April):
The Muddy Puddle
by Dennis Lee (originally from “Garbage Delight”)
I am sitting
In the middle
Of a rather Muddy
With my bottom
Full of bubbles
And my rubbers
Full of Mud,
While my jacket
And my sweater
Go on slowly
As I very
To the Bottom
Of the Mud.
And I find that
What a person
With a Puddle
Round her middle
Thinks of mostly
In the muddle
Is the Muddi-
Ness of Mud.
This poem came to mind absolutely spontaneously. I somehow became aware that there was this little voice in the back of my head chanting these words over and over. It wasn’t until I finally took a second to pay attention to the words that little voice was saying that I realized what was going on. I’ve been giving myself my own message.
In a couple of areas in my life, I’ve been stuck. I’ve been sitting in the middle of a rather muddy puddle, dwelling on my stuck-ness and the muddiness of mud. And the great thing about being stuck, is that it makes for entertaining stories with your friends, in a way, it’s wonderful to be stuck in this great big mud puddle. You can really wallow in mud.
It reminds of a saying I brought home to tease my Dad with (him being an engineer).
Arguing with an engineer, is like wrestling with a pig. After half an hour you realize the pig likes it.
Not only have I been stuck, I’ve been enjoying being stuck.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the swamp is great. Remember (from my list of 100 things) that my most memorable theatre experience involved a set that was a giant mud puddle. The swamp is the place of germination, of stewing — a symbol of that creative unconscious. I think that by and large we don’t do enough walking around in our own swamps. It’s just not a great place to get stuck in. You need to start bringing that stuff to the surface, show your shiny rocks and orchids to the tribe, or else your swamp starts to stagnate.
Do you think I’ve overthought a kid’s poem too much? Nah. Just a reminder that there are truths hidden everywhere, even in innocent looking children’s poems. We just need to take a moment to hear them.
Sidebar: It was interesting perusing my 1979 calendar. I recorded all the hot dog days at school but not my little brother’s first birthday (sorry James). I did note that the we were going to the Muppet Movie on October 21st though, so at least I got the important stuff. There’s a mysteriously named “Chicken orders due” on February 18, and a “Blessing of Cars” on April 22. Apparently we had a federal election on May 22. I took a piano exam in January and went to a swim meet in December. I know I started doing a paper route because I’ve recorded all the days I had to go out collecting. And most importantly I recorded on Friday, July 13 that Sky Lab was falling.
Some people pay big bucks to be able to wallow in mud. Granted, it’s mud from some tropical place that’s full of something or other to justify the price tag, but wallowing mud it still is.
I like wallowing in mud too. Getting stuck isn’t much fun, though. Sometimes you need a hand pulling yourself out.