May 29, 2017
Adventures in Mud
There are mud baths, mud facials, mud cloth, and mud pies.All good, desirable things. ‘Here’s mud in your eye’, a great saying. We go out of our way and pay lots of money for hot mud baths, in situ.
However, I cannot say I have enjoyed any of that. Mud is my nemesis. It has taken quite some time for that to sink in, because it looks so innocent, just sitting there. It’s in my way, why not walk across? Why not step into it? Why not ignore it?
Because mud is out to get me, and I have finally realized that.
My first encounters with mud were innocuous enough; I made mud pies. Actually they were attempts at mud pottery, and at the tender age of 5 I learned that mud is. not. clay. Assuming I could get it to stick together in a form long enough to put it out in the sun, the results were still not satisfactory. Pies were never on my radar—my mother made pies, and the ones she made certainly did not taste like the ones I made. Just to clarify, hers were much better.
My artistic forays with mud mirror my painter’s attempts at coal dust painting. If you’ve ever tried to mix coal dust with water to make paint, you understand. To sum up: not enough stirring in the world will cause that oily dust to transform into paint. Or ink. Just sayin’.
In my adult life my confrontations with mud have also been art related, mostly because it was standing between me and what I wanted to do.
At Fine Creek:
It looks so innocent. A few years ago I was plein air painting at Fine Creek. A lovely place, and a lovely day. A beautiful June day, birds chirping, water babbling, all is right with the world. I was with a group of painters who get together to paint outdoors, the Virginia Plein Air Painters.
We were all spread out, and I wanted to get as close to the water as possible. It was an easy walk, after a short set of stone steps, to the rock-lined edge of the creek. I got a great start, but after a while I wanted to see what the other artists were doing, and I could see some a bit further down the water, so I decided to walk along the stones rather than all the way up the steps and around. It was a straight shot, just a few flat boulders and some wet spots.
Just wet spots. No mud. Really. And I did not listen to that little voice that asked, “Do you really want to do that?” Because yes. Yes I did.
So, I put down my palette knife, wiped my hands, and started down the creek, stay well away from the water, so I would fall in. Stepping ever so carefully.
But not carefully enough that I didn’t slip on a wet spot, that turned out to have mud underneath. Such a little spot, and such a big bruise. Fortunately, I was able to get up, brush off my bottom and my ego, and go on, not much worse for wear.
And then I had to go back.
And of course I was going to go back the way I came, because this time I knew where the mud was. In that spot. And I didn’t even hear that little voice say, “Do you really want to do that?”
This time I carefully and thoughtfully skirted the spot of doom, giving it wide berth, hugging the stone retaining wall…
Which had mud at the bottom edge.
This time as I fell I was able to slow my fall a bit because I fell INTO the foliage at the top of the wall (which was about arm height). I congratulated myself on my good fortune as I picked myself up again. At least I didn’t get hurt.
As I was approaching my easel one of the other painters, Eleanor Cox, said, “Linda, you better go wash your hands, that’s poison ivy.” Whhaat? No, couldn’t be, she must mistaken. She warned me again, but I shrugged it off, and continued painting, wiping my neck with my scarf, because now it was getting warm.
But, because her warning haunted me, I did go the restroom shortly thereafter and wash my hands carefully.
To bad I didn’t do that BEFORE I used my scarf to wipe my neck and chin.
The itching on my neck, behind my ear and under my chin started that evening, which I took to be mosquito bites (because I am the Queen of Denial). Exactly the spots I had wiped with my scarf. It was 3 days before the small blisters announced that Ellie was correct.
Two years later, I met my nemesis again, This time on the steps of Venice. Again, it stood between me and what I wanted , which in this case was an awesome and unusual view of the canal at the end of the street on a quiet morning at 7 am.. You can read my blog about that at
I stepped ever so gingerly down the first step, because I saw that green slime, and figured it was slippery. And then I stepped, carefully down to the second step, so I could lean out just a LITTLE bit further...
Well, I did get my photo….
I also saw stars, and for a minute could not feel anything below my neck. Suffice it to say, I no longer think of mud as just an annoyance. I also now listen very closely to that little voice that says, “Do you really want to do that?”
More and more I have learned to listen to that little voice. Most of the time.
And I have learned to wear boots. I learned that in Holland, on the beach. But even boots won't help you in a tidal pool, as my good friend Annie Brash Kelvin can testify (but I will not show you a photo of that).
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