Mud Isn’t “Just Mud”

by Melannie Svoboda SND on November 5, 2012

When I was writing my book, When the Moon Speaks: Rejoicing in Everyday Miracles, I was searching for new topics to write about. I said to a few friends, “I’ve already written about the moon, dogs, whales, tulips, deserts, corn, and fire. What other topics do you suggest?” My friend Sister Lenette Marcello said, “What about mud?” I was taken aback by her suggestion and said, “Mud? Isn’t mud just mud?”

But I delved into the topic of mud and soon learned how fascinating—and how important—mud really is! Mud serves many purposes. It is the home, for example, of countless critters such as worms, frogs, snails, turtles, clams, and crayfish. Other animals love to wallow in mud. Pigs, elephants, and rhinos, use mud to cool down their bodies on a hot day and to protect their skin from insects. They also use mud to prevent overexposure to the sun. I guess you could say that mud is nature’s first sunscreen.

Throughout history mud has been widely used in construction. Countless people even in our own day live in homes constructed essentially out of mud. I saw many such houses when I was in Uganda several years ago. Mud can be treacherous, however. Construction workers learned long ago that buildings constructed on clay soil (hard mud) will eventually crack and even collapse without proper drainage. Mud’s treachery is also graphically displayed when a mud slide sweeps away an entire village.

Mud also has therapeutic uses. Mud packs, mud wraps, and mud baths have been used for centuries to treat rheumatism, osteoarthritis, sciatica, and skin diseases. Face masks made out of mud promise to revitalize your skin.  Certainly one of the most important uses of mud is pottery. Pottery is made by forming clay (mud) into particular objects (such as figurines or vessels) and heating them to extremely high temperatures. The heat causes a chemical reaction that strengthens and hardens the clay. The earliest known ceramic objects have been found in the modern-day Czech Republic (maybe fashioned by some of my early ancestors!) One Venus figurine dates back to about 27,000 BC!

What does the Bible say about mud? In the second creation story in Genesis, God fashions Adam “out of the clay of the ground” (Gen.  2:7). In other words, from mud! The prophet Isaiah also uses the image of God as a potter when he says to God, “We are the clay and you are the potter: We are all the work of your hands” (Is. 64:7). When Jesus cured the man born blind, “he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on (the blind man’s) eyes” (Jn. 9:6).  Such scriptural references elevate mud almost to the level of the sacred!

The poet Mary Oliver wrote: “The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is not decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list.” In other words, we should reverence every aspect of God’s incredible creation—even mud!

What has been your experience with mud—as a child? as an adult?

Did your attitude toward mud change after reading this?

Are there any other “lowly” aspects of God’s creation that are calling for your attention and respect?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Peggy Lisiak November 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Dear Melannie, When One can choose a topic, such as “mud” and expound on it and make it so interesting; we again compliment you on your ability. I learned so much and yes, have changed by mind on how I think about mud. Up until now, it has only been something messy to deal with; now I realize how useful it is, especially when God chose it for Creation. I have always looked forward to Monday’s Fr Rich Jones Reflections and now have added yours. Thank You. Peggy

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Melannie Svoboda SND November 7, 2012 at 11:06 am

Dear Peggy, Thank you for writing! Yes, it’s always good to take nothing for granted! Melannie

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Georgia Auckly November 5, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Making mud pies when I was a child was fun and I remember watching my Grandpa’s pigs wallow in the mud. It just goes to show you, you can always make something out of nothing. God did! He made us!

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Melannie Svoboda SND November 7, 2012 at 11:04 am

Dear Georgia, I never made mud pies, but I do remember making mud soup with my little girlfriend. The recipe included grass, twigs, and small stones! Thanks for sharing! Melannie

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maggie moore ssj November 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm

DEAR MELANNIE,
WHEN I WAS ABOUT 10 YEARS OLD I WENT WITH MY FRIEND HELEN AND HER FAMILY TO HER GRANDPARENTS HOUSE.
THEY HAD PIGS ON THEIR FARM, AND WE SAT ON THE FENCE LOOKING INTO THE PIG-PEN. UNFORTUNATELY ONE OF US LOST OUR BALANCE AND GRABBED THE OTHER AND WE BOTH WENT HEADLONG INTO THE MUD WITH THE PIGS! HER GRANDMA
HOSED US DOWN AND WE WORE HER COUSINS CLOTHES HOME.
HELEN’S PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS DIDN’T FIND IT NEARLY AS ENTERTAINING AS WE DID. I ALWAYS LOVED MUD!!!
GOD BLESS YOU FOR BEING ABLE TO WRITE WITH SUCH
SIMPLICITY. LOVE MAGGIE

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Melannie Svoboda SND November 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm

What a fun story, Maggie! Not wonder it’s remembered by you after all these years! Melannie

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Mark Watkins March 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

I am sitting down to write my church newsletter article (I am the organist and music director, First Church in Windsor, Windsor, CT) and I’ve stumbled onto “mud” as a topic. Here in CT (and perhaps in other places) Spring is called the “Season of Mud”. I would like to utilize some of your scriptural examples in my article…and I would also like to subscribe and recommend “Sunflower Seeds” to my church family.

My favorite “mud memory” is making mudpies at my grandparent’s home in Cushing, Oklahoma in the sixties. There was a gas space heating stove in the garage, and I would make sand “crusts”, fill them with mud “chocolate” and bake them by putting them on the floor beneath the heater. I can still recall, sharply, the smell of baking mud, mingling with all the standard garage odors. That was a wonderful day.

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