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?