There is a picture tucked away in an album somewhere of me as a toddler sitting in the dirt. That may have been the last time I got away with getting dirty as a child.
I remember my mother taking a scrub brush to me one day after repeatedly ordering me to wash my neck. I dutifully obeyed each time but no matter how well I washed I couldn’t pass her inspection. Turns out that tan doesn’t wash off no matter how hard you scrub.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only little girl who was told not to get dirty. There was hell to pay if I scuffed up my school shoes. My nose, my hair, my hands all had to stay clean. Even my play clothes … what’s with that?
I’m a messy person by nature. I thrive living and working within a certain level of chaos. No matter how hard my mother worked at it, how draconian the punishments, she was never able to turn me to the tidy side.
But I realized she did instill a reluctance to get my hands dirty. To get grime under my nails. To just plunge in to a sticky, gooey mess. Now that I’m starting to work with clay I’m getting over that.
I’ve discovered the sheer tactile pleasure of squeezing bits of wet clay through my fingers to make slip. It’s wonderful. Slippery and messy, it takes a long time to create the right consistency. I’m told there is commercial slip that can be purchased but where’s the fun in that?
To me, working with clay is the grownup equivalent of making mud pies. It’s gooey, grimy, and extremely satisfying. Even when the object I’m attempting to create doesn’t work out. The failures just get mashed back onto a compact ball to wait until I come up with my next inspiration. Mud is a very forgiving medium.
So now I spend several hours every week deliberately getting dirty. I highly recommend it. Even better, getting dirty is good for you! Find a dirty activity to try. Gardening, pottery, finger painting, baking bread. I know baking isn’t dirty but hand kneading the dough is messy and that counts.
What messy thing will you get into?