Science Writer

Joanna M. Foster

Mud

I walk on the pavement, the unyielding cement exerting an equal and opposite force back up on the sole of my shoe repelling me away. I step off the sidewalk slightly and onto the matted, yellow grass. My heel sinks into the mud.

Suddenly I'm no longer being pushed away but gently pulled in, like a lover tugging at your hand to come closer. I give in and lie down in my work clothes on the muddy winter ravaged grass. The ground is faintly warm today and smells sweet close up - grass tickling my lips, the a ir affectionately soft on exposed shoulders. I gently rub my cheek against the grass and breathe in so deeply my chest aches.

And then I'm no longer twenty-four, alone in a strange, busy city filled with rioting traffic, pushing pedestrians and selfish sky scrapers that crowd out the clouds. I'm seven and no one has ever died and I will never die and every morning I will wake up to find my mother drinking coffee in the green arm chair.

When I lay on the earth I could be three or eighty-three. What brings me to the earth changes - an uncoordinated attempt to ride my new bic ycle at seven, or the suicide of a friend in my twenties - brings me down to my knees, no to my face in the warm mud and sweet dry grass. Lying on the grass I can feel my heart pounding against the ground. If the earth's heart beat 3 billion times as mine will in my lifetime, her hea rt would beat once every four years and my life would be the time between blinks.

Everything grows at a different speed, everything dies at a different speed. The arbor day tree I presented to my mother in first grade, its roots wrapped in wet paper towel, is still a child, waist high at the side of our house while I have grown up and moved away.

There is something so unchanging about the earth. It is the one constant in my life. Carefully considered plans and beloved people pass in and out of my life, I hop restlessly from city to city, but the earth is still beneath my feet turning calmly. And when I get lonely or disor iented or afraid I can lay down on my face in the mud, hold onto he grass and breathe a familiar smell of sun warmed dirt. I think I must have been homesick for the mud.