My cancer diagnosis and treatment has kept me isolated this year. Much of my life has occurred indoors and eventually I began to crave being outdoors.
On YouTube I searched for nature scenes and sounds. I like trees, cloudy drizzly days, and sunny beaches. When I find trees and beach together, I am in heaven. I relax and drift with the images and sounds on the screen.
One day the YouTube algorithm calculated and suggested a mudlarking video. The thumbnail was of muddy estuaries, smiling faces, and found treasure. I was curious and clicked ‘play’ on my first mudlarking video. And then I watched another, and another, and then I was binge watching mudlarking, bottle digging, foraging, and beachcombing videos.
The Mudpies on YouTube were my first mudlark video experience. A father and daughter team squelching through muddy estuaries at low tide hunting for whatever treasure can be found. Oioi!
I was sucked in like a mudlarker’s boot in deep mud.
What is Mudlarking?
Mudlarking is walking along a muddy area for fun and looking for treasure. It could be pottery, clay pipes, bottles, coins, metals, nearly anything old. Not just vintage, but old, some of the most sought-after treasure is from the Roman era. Much of what is found is Victorian.
Along with mudlarking, there is bottle digging, metal detecting, and foraging. I group them under the broad heading of mudlarking for the purpose of this post because it's easier and they are all so fun.
I’ve never been mudlarking. When I was a child my cousins and I would explore my grandparent’s farm. One time we found a small garbage dump in the middle of a stubbly wheat field, but I don’t remember seeing any treasure. It looked like a dirty pile of rusted metal to my young eyes.
After binging the Mudpies, I found Mudlarking with Kit & Caboodlers, the Northern Mudlarks, and Dirty Secrets of Scotland. They each have their own niche within the mudlarking community, some like tiny doll treasures, some like bottles and jars, some even forage for food. And they all fill my heart with joy.
Mudlarking and Spirituality.
After watching many hours of mudlarking videos, I’ve come to understand why they speak to my heart so well. I’ve realized that the mudlarking activities and the mudlarkers themselves embody many of my own spiritual philosophies. It’s not only what they do, but how they do it and who they’re being. It’s how the mudlarking community and my spirituality intersect in ways that makes my soul happy.
Below I share the ways mudlarking, bottle digging, metal detecting, foraging, and the people that are creating those experiences and sharing them on YouTube align with my own spiritual philosophy.
Release attachment to outcome.
Mudlarkers, and the like, head out to their sites not knowing what they are going to find. They go and hope for the best but are never guaranteed a find. If a find comes, great! But if the finds don’t come, they move to another place and try again.
Respect the past and move forward.
Often mudlarkers are respecting the past by including the history of their finds in their videos. Some of them include the disturbing history and reframe it from a current cultural perspective, respecting both the past and the current, more conscious point of view. The Mudpies are good at this.
More importantly, historically significant finds are reported to a museum, or authorities, to be researched and recorded. Then, they are on to the next tip.
Connect with nature.
Many mudlarkers take the time and care to film their natural surroundings. They appreciate where they are, and it shows. Some are talented videographers and editors, The Northern Mudlarks and Mudlarking with Kit & Caboodlers are especially good at this. They create beautiful nature films whilst they are mudllarking, digging bottles, and detecting.
Seek and find joy.
Mudlarkers find joy in each outing. “It’s a bead!”, “It’s a leg!”, and “It’s a bucket list find!” are exclaimed. When treasure is found on Dirty Secrets of Scotland, like a long sought ginger beer bottle, Willie Scott dances and sometimes I dance with him.
The joy they embody when they find something special is infectious. Their joy is felt, celebrated, and then shared with all of us.
Sometimes the finds are kept for their own collections, or upcycled into jewelry, crafts, storage vessels, and sometimes returned to their intended purposes like a cut glass saltshaker. Mudlarkers aren’t people just picking up stuff, they are collectors, artists, crafters, and musicians.
I dare you to listen to the Dirty Secrets of Scotland theme song a few times without it getting stuck in your head. Willie Scott is a musician and writes his own music for his YouTube videos.
Share authentic experiences.
Being authentically themselves, mudlarkers are kind and joyful. Sometimes they slip and fall in the mud, as one does. Always they smile and wave their dirty, well worked hands at the camera. They aren’t staging beauty shots they are showing the truth of how and where they work. They share the good larks and the not so good larks with tired smiles. They share their collections, crafts, arts, music, and silliness. They share openly of themselves.
Protect the environment.
Many in the mudlarking community will collect and recycle the plastic they find on the beaches and in the forest. There is an American mudlarker and YouTuber, Under the Surface, who collects and recycles as much as he can.
Work for the betterment of the collective.
Some will save the finds that they don’t want and set them aside for future mudlarkers. Some even gift finds to each other. The community of mudlarkers seems strong. They work together, share their favorite sites, share online communities, and generally collaborate.
With each find, mudlarkers are joyful and grateful. They have invested hours of work to find their treasures and know how precious each find is. There is much gratitude shared, and nothing is taken for granted.
Mudlarkers are a beautiful tribe of unique and talented people. I appreciate how they work and love their creativity. Their joy and authenticity nourish my soul. Their love of the environment and community inspire me. Maybe one day, when the world settles down, I will have a mudlarking adventure of my own.
Thank you mudlarkers, bottle diggers, detectorists, and foragers for being you and doing your thing. It’s beautiful and exactly what I needed in my life.
The picture is mine from a trip to the Platte River in downtown Denver a few weeks ago.