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Mud, 9 May

Young Henry opposite was splashing in puddle and getting covered in mud and laughter, but adults avoid mud. Is it the oozy texture, the colour, the smell mud can have? I recall visiting a village in the Central Highlands of Vietnam near the beautiful Lắk Lake, and the whole settlement was a foot deep in mud, and we were told that was how it was, and wondered how you could live there.

We suppress mud, dredge and drain mudflats and build over them. Yet mud is important, and sand/mud intertidal flats are rich habitats for microbes that drive global biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulphur. Anoxic mud sequesters carbon, preventing its return as carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and recycles organic matter back into nutrients for plant photosynthesis.

Mud has been used by humans for millennia to make buildings, pots, for medicinal and beauty purposes and for making art, as a pigment and sculptural material. The Bristol artist Richard Long has been using mud in various ways for decades now.

Magpie-lark or Peewee by the Nyambaga
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