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A Rumination on Humble Mud

Updated: Apr 18, 2019

Many years ago, PRAIRIE HILL had the good fortune of being introduced to the Hutchinson family.  Duane was a master storyteller and would delight children and adults in the wonderful art of storytelling - sitting in the presence of someone who could verbally spin a great yarn.

Over the years, Duane's children, Steve and his wife Susan, and James and his wife Nona and his grandchildren, Katie, Claire, Will, and Wesley all enriched the PRAIRIE HILL community in so many ways. 

In the Fall of 2006 James wrote this article for PRAIRIE HILL's newsletter.  

A Rumination on Humble Mud

Is there anything as intimate as having mud squish through your fingers - shaping and squeezing and rolling it into logs or balls with your hands? 

Living soil is nature's way to recycle all of the organics and minerals that once were so proudly individual.  When a mountain rises through plate tectonics, it's the effects of weather that wears them down.  Sun, wind, water and the changing of the seasons eventually turn everything into mud.  And so the cycle begins again.

Plate Tectonics: A chart to inspire the children's imagination during an explanatory lesson on shifting plates in the Older Elementary Montessori Community.

When I was a child my brother and I dug caves in our backyard.  We were often covered in mud.  We saw how tree roots spread and how grubs and worms lived below the surface.  We saw seeds sprouting, sending their first tentative shoots out to seek the nutrients for their lives.  I saw dead birds and squirrels covered with maggots disappear into the very soil we were digging - being reabsorbed and giving food for other forms of life. 

Our neighbors wouldn't let their children play with us because they hated dirt.  I received a lecture once from the mother of a friend saying that my parents were terrible for letting us dig all of these holes in our yard.  

When I hear that children are disconnected from the earth, I think of the endless hours I spent playing in the dirt and how that very rarely happens today.  As an adult I harvested clay from a hole I dug.  I washed the clay to remove the sand.  And I thought of how nature had turned the mountain into the clay I held in my hand - all of the glaciers, and rain, and rivers over millions of years - and I felt myself part of that process.  And yes, I got dirty.

-James Hutchinson        

A Renaissance man, James designed and welded these natural element inspired fence panels for PRAIRIE HILL. After his unexpected death, his co-workers, in true community fashion, completed and helped install the last of them. 


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