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Consuelo Gallegos

New Mexico born, Chicana and aspiring writer. Working towards combining my love for science, and Latine history to craft compelling fiction and non-fiction stories that educate and entertain. When I’m not working as a professional healthcare worker or being a mom, I’m volunteering, researching science, Chicano history, or studying languages and art. Everyday I make time for my family and being in nature with my dogs.

Spring is near and it has me thinking about growth, nature, and mud. I love mud.  You won’t hear many people saying they love mud. It’s not for everyone, but everyone benefits from it. I say that I grew out of the mud.  Sort of. Mud is inside and outside of me. Inside of me as nutrients from the food I eat. Outside of me just like the walls that shelter me. Before I appeared, it was here. Filled with seeds. Growing plants.  In death, that’s where I’ll end up, too. Many of us will. It will be Mother Earth’s final embrace, cocooned in the dirt and the mud.  I can imagine being there, curled up like a niña de la tierra, a s´ös`ööpa, a Jerusalem bug, back to where I came from, into the dirty mud that I love, respect, and appreciate.

Everyone wants what comes from the mud, but most don’t want to get their hands dirty. Mustn’t ruin the manicure. I want my hands caked in dirt and mud.  When I sink or mash the soil with my fingers, using them as shovels or rakes to push the dark clumps around, I lose myself. It’s meditation. Repotting a plant, planting seeds, or transplanting a cutting gives me a feeling I can’t explain. Knowing that with a little water and some fertilizer mixed in, that something awakens and grows. New life is birthed into the world from mud.

The most important thing we inherited from our ancestors was this knowledge, the science of mud.  Our agriculture, architecture, medicine, art.  All of that and more. They learned it from their ancestors-- from their indigenous people and from those that came across the ocean or from other lands. No one can deny that dirt, and mud ultimately, is a substance that enriches our lives. It nourishes us. It heals our body and spirit, when we use it as a poultice, as a medium to create or even just to play in. There aren’t many things more important. 

It’s life. In earlier times and even now, food is harvested, cooked in an horno and then served on earthenware within the adobe brick walls of homes--all from earth. Whether it’s soil, silt, or clay, it’s all mud. As young children, we’d sit in the back of the pick-up truck, dads in the cab, and head out to a certain spot to gather the soil and sand needed to make mud for the adobe bricks that built everything around us. Once mixed with water and straw, in just the right consistency, it would be shoveled and shaped in wooden forms, then dried, making perfect bricks. Out of the mud arose the hornos, fences, walls, and homes that had been built like that for generations and still exist on our planet. Environmentally safe, natural, and sound.  Looking at Pueblo structures, our Chicano family homes, built in these traditional ways, seeing these structures that are still standing decades and centuries later, one can appreciate the many positive attributes of plain old mud.   

As children, we learned to make mud balls that we’d hide. We’d wait for them to dry, then use them as weapons against each other in our games. After launching a dried mud ball, we’d see if it had met its mark. We’d watch it explode in a powdery cloud or rush to collect the intact balls to fire at each other again. Special puddles were used to make mud mazes, tiny walls, and structures that became the setting for the stories and characters we created. We’d paint our faces, arms, and legs in mud, requiring a strong spray with the hose before going inside for a proper bath. I pity children who are confined to playing with Play-Doh, with its distinct, sickly sweet, artificial smell and strange consistency that could never compare to the sometimes gritty or smooth, natural feel and scent of earth. There’s a certain joy and happiness in being a dirty, muddy kid.  

Dirty. Sadly, it’s meant as an insult. Particularly when it is hurled at immigrants, like people from Mexico. Often it is used against anyone working in the fields, on farms or ranches, in long sleeves and hats, sweaty and covered in dust, toiling in the dirt or mud, under a hot sun, or in inclement weather.  Some people see just the dirt and they find it offensive.  Far removed, in their offices and homes, going from concrete house to concrete sidewalk and on to concrete and asphalt roads, avoiding anything that might make them dirty. It seems so colorless and cold.  Being detached from the earth, not seeing the beauty and wonder that comes from that connection to something natural, something dirty. Knowing that what you have nurtured and cared for will feed many people is something special.  Someone who’s confined themselves to their sterile boxes, void of life, will never know that feeling. I choose dirty. I choose mud.

Look at the potter. Their connection to mud is as strong as the farmer’s.  Both have the same vision and passion for seeing something produced from the rich soil. On my shelf, I have a storyteller ceramic art piece. Made of clay, it represents Cochiti storytellers, who passed down their stories in oral form. No written word needed.  Mud makes art and tells tales and history, too. Just like a storyteller. Artists from different cultures have used mud to create tiles, paintings, and even giant murals. Ancient art, etched into mud, has been found in caves, taking up hundreds of square feet.  

Mud is the color of you and me. Look at a mud-colored palette and you’ll see every shade of dirt, soil, and skin—all of us looking like Mother Earth. Religions and myths around the planet have a variation of the origin of man being created from dust, clay, or mud. The farmer, the potter, the creator, all appear to use the same medium. Mud is the color of us all.  

You may have done this.  I have used mud as a mask or a treatment. People have done it since the beginning of time. Mud has been used as medicine and for beauty. Today it’s become something luxurious and therapeutic. Spas everywhere provide mud bath experiences. Touted to relieve pain and stress, mud poultices, facials and baths have been used since time immemorial to soothe the body and the mind.  

When I think about my existence, and how some believe the creator took mud and blew life into it, it makes mud seem like something sacred and spiritual.  The way something so simple, common and dirty can be so many different things, like sculptures or architecture, even medicine.  Thinking of all the ways it has shaped reality reinforces my appreciation for mud.  Mud is our origin story and will be what cradles our bodies when we die. When all of us are gone, mud will remain. From start to finish, life is mud.

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