I loved mud.
When I was six or seven, my family lived in a region of heavy, clayey soil. I would scoop up a sticky handful and shape it into a tiny duck or a miniature human face. I made a man out of the dampened dust of the earth; I called him Adam and grieved when he broke.
Other people don’t like mud. I hid my sun-dried models from my mother, and hoped my sisters wouldn’t tell. Grown-ups don’t like dirt.
When I reach forty I have beside me my own two children, aged sixish, sevenish. We climb down into the bed of a stream and collect… mud. We dig from the slippery bank the stickiest mud we can find—yellowish-brown and heavy, almost buttery to the touch but claggy on the hands. Because, for some reason, my children love mud, and, as they always remind me, I grew them and must live with the consequences.
We mash our mud and thin it with water, strain it through nylony fabric, boil it until it reduces to a sticky but workable lump. Mud-splatter around the stove and smudges on the table begin to bother my husband, but I assure him it’s all in a good cause. Natureish. Educationy. That sort of thing.
We form our mud into roughly-shaped but beautiful things: candle-holders, dice and tiny, flat-lidded pots. I heat them in the oven; we paint some and leave others to their natural colour. Every grandparent, aunt or uncle gets a homemade clay piece this Christmas.
And they are delighted. Everyone loves mud.
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