Rut — (dubious real estate):
From Middle English rutte, from Middle French ruit, or “disturbance,” from Latin rugire “to roar.”*
Read: frustration. Hair-tearing, hollow, dead-end days. A rut is the one place nobody wants to wallow.
What I’m learning? No matter how slight, every rut, by its nature, has an up-side.
Imagine ambling down a misty dirt road with me after a hard June rain. We pause to map this puddle.
Note the fjord-like perimeter. The little puddle that wanted to be the Norwegian Sea.
As an art major at St. Olaf College, 46 Junes ago I helped my advisor execute a wall-sized mural for the posh campus restaurant (where students still take visiting parents in hopes of a steak).
Working to scale, we reproduced Norway’s uber-erratic coastline.
A map was enlarged, traced onto paper. Yours truly cut the stencils, hour after hour. No errors or eye rolls allowed. No accidentally lopping off minor headlands, islets or inlets.
Think focused dexterity. Quantum patience. Nordic fortitude (Ja sure, you betcha!).
Then we tackled Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.
Need I mention multitudinous X-acto blades?
My knife and I settled into a mechanical, minimum wage rut.
The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions. —Ellen Glasgow
How quickly routines become habitual. Hidebound. Auto pilot is convenient, but numbing. Increasingly tired, uninspired, our days drag.
remember the peculiar rut-become-puddle reflecting the heavens?
The same dirt road, above, now glints with myriad ice formations.
Below? Same stretch, last summer. Seems parched earth plays a role in forming those extravagant margins.
I goosed the colors, then added 6 subtle overlays. Can you spot all 6?** (answers below)
No matter your score, you focused precious curiosity on a sight most people would bypass. Or step around to save their shoes.
What else are we overlooking, right at our feet?
Roads erode. Metaphorically, unpaved ways wear on the soul. No matter how stuck or dull or sidelined we feel enduring the humdrum—commuting, flossing, wiping down counters, mowing, moisturizing, paying bills—I’m banking on this: there’s an underlying rhythm.
In a rut? Or … in the groove?
Ephesians translates the Greek word poeima, literally “poem,” as God’s “workmanship”—which includes us: sentient, sensory beings shaped from dust, sometimes groping our way forward.
“So the Poet himself stepped out of heaven and into the poem, onto the dusty trails of the earth and into the desperate ruts of our souls …” writes Emily P. Freeman in A Million Little Ways.
Because of this …
Our lives are at once ordinary and mythical. … We have these magnificent hearts that pump through all sorrow and all winters we are alive on earth,” Natalie Goldberg observes (Writing Down the Bones).
After Dreamer’s open heart surgery, I know this as never before. Still, some days recovery is a shared rut, no end in sight.
So we hold hands, stay with it, notice the margins. We watch for random sparkle, reflections of heaven.
Hence, these photos: hard evidence that amid the mundane, something glimmers.
May we do no less.
- *Merriam Webster
- **ANSWER: 3 partial fireworks, top left margin and bottom right corner. Three black twiglets, bottom margin, left to right
Are you currently in a rut, or in the groove? Could it be both?