There we were, a combined 153 years between the two of us, in a white 2007 Mazda, spinning our wheels, not proverbially, but actually. We were thoroughly and completely stuck in the mud, not just any mud, but thick, brown, oozing, sticky mud. Now, if you have to be stuck in the mud (and that indeed is a philosophical question of epic proportions, which we will leave for discussion to a later date) choose a sunny day, world-class scenery and a good friend. I did.
To round out a lovely visit with my dear friend A., we decided to drive among the fishponds to see what birds we might spot, and to enjoy the flowering bounty of spring. After remarking on the lush green valley, thanks to abundant rainfall, and spotting many birds, we decided to make a detour into a fishpond to see if we could find the black stork, an apparently rare variety of stork that had recently been spotted in the vicinity. After slipping and sliding cautiously on the narrow ring road, we were utterly marooned in the Bet Shean Valley, the Gilboa Mountains climbing off to the West, and the even taller Gilad Mountains soaring off to the East. Right next to us, thousands upon thousands of birds were circling overhead, swooping down and occasionally coming to rest a stone’s throw away at the edge of the fishpond. There were enormous birds of all sorts- pelicans, seagulls, kingfishers, and yes, the black stork too!
To my mind, slow travel focuses on savoring the experience, the people, the culture of new places and foreign countries, in contrast to ticking off sites one has to see. Writing a blog about slow travel for the last few years, I thought I had understood just what slow travel meant. Being stuck in the mud puts a very different spin on that concept. Just how slow is slow?
When you are stuck, as we were, and all you can do is wait for someone to come and pull you out, you have time to look around, savor the view, laugh with your friend, and enjoy the sun. There is absolutely nothing, nothing we could do to extricate ourselves, except for what we had already done, which was to phone for help. Enjoying the minutes as they slowly ticked away, my 93 year old friend A. assured me that this was not the first time this had happened to her, and she has always gotten out. Thus far. I decided not to worry. Why worry? With a sparkle in her eye, she told me that she had actually arranged for this to happen so that she will remain unforgettable. Dare I say she has succeeded?
The first truck arrives to extricate us but is unable to make it up the slippery slope, so he calls for reinforcements in the shape of my friend’s son riding shotgun on a tractor. After failing to find a place to connect my car to the tractor from the front, the tractor lumberingly turns around and makes the long and muddy approach from the back. The tractor is slipping and sliding in the mud and I wonder whether he will get close enough. My friend’s son takes over the driver seat as I gratefully buckle myself into the back. Getting pulled out along the narrow, muddy path, with the fish pond plunging down to the left, and an equally deep gully on the right, I screwed my eyes shut and prayed. I could feel the car slithering over the mud, and the seconds tick by. We are holding our collective breaths. Ten more seconds and we are home free.
A few minutes later as we drive to the garage to spray down the car and do a damage assessment, we fast-forward into real time, and the pull of everyday events. There are things to do, commitments to keep, and people to meet. Gone are those few magical moments when there was nothing we could do so all we did was wait, look at the birds, the scenery and each other. Gone but not forgotten.