Mud is not a beautiful substance. It didn’t get the deep green of the pointy grass, or the rich almost black of actual soil. No, mud drew the short straw of watered-down brown. Or orange. Almost its own color, the color of mud.
I sit in what was supposed to be a garden, squelching instead into Carolina clay, pulling crabgrass out of mud. Cursed is the ground because of you. What is a unit of clay? Dirt comes in clods, mountains come in rocks. I don’t know, but whatever they are, the roots of the crabgrass pull them up, refusing to part with the ground. I grab one, and try to crumble it free. Muddy clay has its own feel, as well as color.
The mud is a little child – it clings to my hand, to my jeans. It leaves a stain, a stain that will probably outlast the fabric it marks. One day I will reach my hand into the dryer, and pull out nothing but the stain.
The garden belongs to the Powells, our neighbors across the street. They ate tomatoes and corn and potatoes from this forty foot square for more years than I have lived. But the soil is gone now. No rich blackness, no grubs or beetles crawling through. The garden is dead. I am not gardening; I am performing last rites. We gave the garden a veneer of soil, and pushed our seeds into its skin. Other seeds fell on clay, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. There is no harvest to look forward to.
Why do children play in the mud? It is ugly and smelly and doesn’t make Mother happy. Why does God play in the mud? Why does He bury thousands of people in mud? In Guinsaugon, text messages were sent from below 30 feet of mud. Then they stopped. One child has his days filled with mud; another child, his lungs. From dust you are, and to dust you will return. Some would dangle God on the end of his own providence, and demand an answer. I have no stomach for it. I can’t answer the first question. Why do I think I would be able to understand the answer to the second?
I am the light of the world. Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam”. So he went and washed and came back seeing. Mud is the world. God kills with mud, God heals with mud. Luther must have liked this story: what rational mind would help a blind man by smearing mud in his eyes?
I wash my orange hands again, and a little more water becomes brown, the mud dissolves into sand, and slides off into the sink. My hands still bear mud scars. God made man out of mud. Today, God stuck me in the clay. I don’t understand mud at all. Put some in my eyes.
*Isaiah 45:9, ESV: “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?