Tryangulation has a post today about the freedom for children to get dirty. In response, I want to share my recent piece on my childhood play in the mud.
Today's Saturday. The sun is out. I'm in second grade. I have on my old clothes. It rained Tuesday, Wednesday and yesterday this week. It rained lots last week, too. The path from our front yard to the pond is squishy. I can see the spot where there aren't any wheels of old Queen Anne's lace. That's where the pond is. It always dries up by the end of the summer and then comes back in the spring.
Last year I caught pollywogs in the pond. Mommy gave me a Mason jar to put them in. I watched their legs grow and their tails get smaller. Every day I'd check to see if they looked different. I brought them back to the pond when their legs got big. Frogs can't live in a jar with just water and no rocks. They'd drown. And besides we couldn't have them jumping around in my room.
I see the pond. Crayfish have built little clay towers. It looks like somebody used a cake decorating tube to squeeze ruffles of mud around their holes. The holes are big enough for a snake to crawl in. I've never seen any snakes, so far.
Over there it looks like maybe there was a building. It's a pile of melted clay bricks. Some come together to make a corner . The whole mess is the color of the bottom of the pond.
I'm looking for pollywogs.
There are tiny fish swimming in a group. They are kind of silvery and many colored like the inside of a shell. I don't think they're tadpoles. Tadpoles don't turn up in groups. I see a cloud of dust in the water. There's a crayfish. I poke a stick in front of it to see if it will grab on. It just swims around it.
A pollywog is near the edge of the shallow water. I reach around behind me to get my empty jar. I don't want to scare it away. As I scoop up the water, the pollywog scoots away. I try not to get my feet wet but I want to see where it went. Water is starting to leak in through the sides of my sneakers. I squat down closer to the water being careful not to get all wet. I see another pollywog with tiny knobs where its feet will be. I quickly scoop my jar through the water. At the last minute, the pollywog swims out of the jar. When the water clears, I watch for another pollywag.
After two minutes, another tadpole swims near me. I scoop with the jar and as soon as it's inside, I put my other hand over the top. I feel the tadpole bumping into my fingers. I keep my hand tightly over the jar until it is out of the water. I look. There is nothing in the jar.
My hands are cold and my feet are cold. Does that slimy line mean there is a snake? I'll come back tomorrow and bring something bigger to put over the top of the jar.
I take off my shoes outside. . Mommy is in the kitchen making cookies.
“What's that pile of mud that looks like bricks next to the pond?”
“That was supposed to be a building but it washed away” Mommy says.
“Why did it wash away?”
“The blocks were made with clay from the pond and grass, she said. “They were trying to use local materials from the landscape. But it wasn't practical.”
I thought about that. “Why would somebody try to do that?”
“Do you know who Frank Lloyd Wright is?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say. “Daddy has pictures of his houses.”
“It was his idea to use the local clay. I guess nobody told him how much it rains here,” she adds. “Help me roll the balls for these snickerdoodles,” she says. “Wash your hands first.”