I find great comfort with my hands in the dirt, the earthy musky scent feels like home and carries me away to some place that never was and always is. You know, it never occurred to me until today that my love of mud might be inescapable. I have a Capricorn sun and a Cancer moon/rising. Both strong in their element, Earth and Water combine, their life force the essence of who I am.
No story about the love of mud would be complete without the rain-soaked gardening-turned-mud-fight expedition. It hadn’t rained in forever. Honestly I was tired of they dry. I was also tired of watering the garden with chlorinated city water. One evening, while cultivating, as all good gardeners do…pulling weeds, trimming back dead foliage, and communing with the dirt, I decided to do a rain dance. And dance and pray I did. Such was my conviction, my ecstasy; my husband couldn’t help but join me. As we danced the skies darkened. Bree (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) came out to join us….she was 8 or 9 at the time. The rain came, and boy did.it.come. Instead of running for shelter we continued to dance and play, and in our play we became muddy messes. Once we were already muddy it didn’t really matter, the mudslinging began.
I am so tempted to say “ and it wasn’t your garden-variety mudslinging either….”, but that would be cheesy, so I will refrain.
We laughed and threw mud, dodging and hiding around the various garden florae. I think Bree was in a state of wild shock. Not only were we letting her play in the rain and mud, but actually encouraging it. As our fun and laughter found its way to a natural end, we shed our mud and rain soaked clothes and streaked for the house.
Maybe it started when I was a kid, I don’t even remember how old. I spent some time growing up with my grandparents, and even after I was re-united with my mother and we moved to Pennsylvania, I spent many summers in that small Arkansas town from which I hail. My cousins and I loved to play in the dirt….no, not dirt. Mud. I have no idea how we did it, but we convinced my grandmother to carry a 5 gallon bucket of water out to the edge of the driveway, where we spent many afternoon playing in the mud.
My grandparents, on my mother’s side, lived outside of town. In fact, when I was a teenager we lovingly called it BFE. If you’re not sure what BFE stands for:
Urban dictionary says it means: Out in the middle of fucking nowhere. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=BFE
It took at least 30 minutes to get to town, and doing so was a grand adventure. We traveled several miles down a dirt road, the old wooden single car bridges, with boards barely wide enough for tires, always enchanted me. Ah, but I digress.
My grandmother would carry buckets of water, when we could convince her to, out to the edge of the driveway. My cousins and I made all sorts of mud beings, but our favorite was mud pies. Not the mud pies your mother warned you about….these were completely organic made only from the freshest ingredients, by hand, that day. Sometimes we even taste-tested them. One day we thought it would be a wonderful idea to rub the mud over our entire bodies.
Being from a very unaware and racist south, it wasn’t such a big deal to do what we thought of next….our grandmother and my aunt were walking back from the garden just as we had finished adorning ourselves with the finest mud a 5 gallon bucket of water and a dusty driveway can make. We ran up to them, so excited about our clever idea we could hardly contain ourselves.
“Look grandma! Look! We are little colored children!” “Hush your mouths!” my grandmother and aunt admonished, half laughing and desperately looking around to make sure nobody heard. Looking back I’m not sure if they were more concerned with the unveiling of a family’s racist mindset, or embarrassed that we would associate ourselves as such people. Either way, nobody could hear! Remember…
We were in BFE.
Thank goodness I’ve outgrown the mindset that sees nothing wrong with having fun at someone else’s unthinkable expense, and being totally oblivious to the attitudes it perpetuates.
Dare I tell you the story about camp??
I was an adult this time, still just as full of wonder and adventure and silly desires as ever, on a wild adventure in southwest Missouri. A group of folks gathered to unpack the story of Mary Magdalene, to use it as a magnifying glass, blowing up some piece of our lives so we could see ourselves more clearly. There were many paths to follow, many aspects of the story to embrace. I chose the Sex Path. Don’t giggle. It’s not what you’re thinking… It was a path about finding our authentic “yes” and our emboldened, honest “no”. It was a path about shedding culturally indoctrinated norms to find the values that were really ours. It was empowering and liberating at the same time.
We did Mud People.
Mud People is an exercise involving cosmetic mud, varying degrees of nudity, and the practice of asking for and giving permission. We gathered tentatively and excitedly by the mud that had been strategically placed in a small grove of trees near the back edge of the land, ideally located next to a cool, flowing creek. The instruction was to be as clothed or unclothed as we were comfortable, and to have fun creatively, tenderly, playing in the mud…always asking for very specific permission before we painted anyone else. “May I rub mud on your left shoulder?” And as the recipient, taking a moment to notice what was happening within us, was there a gentle discomfort? A slight unwillingness? Or did our “yes” come from a place of desire for connection, authenticity, playfulness? It was so empowering, so vulnerable to ask and be willing to hear the answer, not as a message about me rather as a message about the other person’s comfort or trying on their newly empowered “no”. When we were done, we went to the creek and, in the same caring, tender, boundary-honoring manner, we helped each other wash the mud away.
And honestly, it was so much FUN playing in the mud!
And that, dear reader, is the story of my secret love of playing in the mud.
Photo credits in order of first appearance: