I reckoned that going on the muddiest walk would provide the most solitude on New Year's Day. One of the routes that is most deserted in normal times was teeming with people the other day, all with new dogs. The dog walkers had not learned to be dog owners yet: the retractable leads weren't being retracted, and the weaving dogs wove their leads across the path and made the walk into an interesting obstacle course. Lots of the dogs were unsure yet who their owners were, too: they flirted with potential new walkers and looked hopeful.
So this afternoon, I plodged through fields of mud skimmed with broken, glassy ice, other people's deep boot-impressions filled with yellow muddy water. New streams had sprung up and were chuckling over the torn grass, and older ones that were supposed to obey specially-laid pipes had found their own routes over and around them. The little birds were delighted to welcome a new year: they skidded from tree to tree in little collections of twitterings, busy doing bird-things. Every walk has a different birdscape; the other day, I saw a flock of redwings on the walk through the park, and the next day on a a friend-walk, we heard a woodpecker's rapid chopping at trees up high in the distance.
My walking boots have layer upon layer of mud on them. There is no point in cleaning them; the dry mud falls off on the pavements and is replaced with wet mud as soon as you walk on the muddy grasslands. On these walks, muddy thought falls from my head and is replaced not by more mud, but by clarity. I think this may be called nature therapy: it definitely works as a way of weathering life's storms.