In Defense of Mud

It’s raining today, a rare treat for Southern California.  I think the weather I miss most about the South is our fantastic thunderstorms.  I used to sit on the swing on my front porch and watch the rain pound and the sky light up like it was alive. ( The sky can be such a show-off.)  Today I sat staring out the window at work, watching the storm and feeling six years old again.  The world was full of joy when I was six years old, full of beauty and magic and wonder and possibility.  This was the year before I grew up, the year before my whole world shattered, before everything changed.  When I was six, I used to run out into our grassy front yard wearing only my pink-and-blue polka-dotted one-piece and twirl.  How I loved to twirl at that age, the last year I was a child.  I would twirl in the warm summer rain, arms outstretched, and drink in the world the way only a child can–with innocence and simple bliss.

I have always loved the rain.

When I was six years old, I was a ballerina.  Or I could have become one, my teacher confided to my mother, if I had been willing to put in the years of hard work and dedication necessary to acquire such discipline and skill.  (But I was only a ballerina for a year, the last year I was a child.  The year I turned seven–when everything changed–I found my mother sitting on a bar stool at the island in the kitchen, a wet dishrag in one hand and her head in the other, and told her very seriously that I was quitting ballet, that I couldn’t handle it right now.  My mother understood.  No one better than she.)  I could have been a ballerina, and indeed what six-year-old girl isn’t enamored of tutus and silk-ribboned shoes?  But what I loved best was the class after ballet: tap dancing.  I remember our annual recital, the night I proved to the world that what I lacked in rhythm and grace I made up for in…being a six-year-old girl.  We tapped our carefully memorized routine to “Singin’ in the Rain,” decked out in our green-and-blue polka-dotted rain coats and matching umbrellas.  (I must’ve had a momentary obsession with polka-dots, a six-year-old girl’s prerogative).  Years later, when I first saw the movie, I was excited to discover that my six-year-old memory could identify with Gene Kelly‘s difficult dance. (Watch the clip here.)  I saw him tap around his umbrella and thought to myself, I can do that!

Our backyard was the envy of the neighborhood.  This was the backyard my brothers and I still talk about with a hint of child-like longing.  Sometimes I wish I could whisper in my six-year-old ear to enjoy it, no really enjoy it, because it’ll be a long, long time before we have any kind of yard to play in again.  But I don’t think it would have changed anything.  We could not have loved that yard better than we did that last year, when the grass had grown in fully, the playhouse de-spidered, and Angel towing us around in the little red wagon.  On summer days when it did not rain, I would pull the hose from under the deck and set the sprinkler to wave at the sky with its long, slow arc across the backyard.  My brothers and I would don our suits and run through the spray, tackling each other and trying to escape the sporadic and energetic attacks of Angel’s slobbery kisses and wet, muddy fur.

Ah yes, mud. I had intended to write about mud all along, and here it is now upon me.  Someone told me today that mud is rain’s disgrace.  That it eats shoes.  That it slanders rain’s good name and drags it through the, well, you know.  I must, in memory of my six-year-old self, beg to differ.  So here are 10 reasons mud is great (click the links for more info on each item):

10. Mud stoves

9. Mud stencils

8. Mud run

7. Mud bath

6. Mud masks

5. Mud bricks

4. Mud therapy

3. Mud wrestling

2. Mud gardening

1. Mud pies!