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Coffee with Warren: Here’s to mud in your eye, beauty awaiting second look

Our readers are no longer surprised by my celebration of beauty encountered in unexpected places: a knot in a floor board, a drop of jam. But in mud?
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Seeing wintertime mud on Cochrane vehicles (lower images) with the eyes of imagination led to experiencing the mud’s intricate beauty hiding in plain sight (upper images). Photos by Warren Harbeck

Our readers are no longer surprised by my celebration of beauty encountered in unexpected places: a knot in a floor board, a drop of jam. But in mud? And as a toast? Really?

The toast, “Here’s to mud in your eye,” appears to have originated in the UK in the 1930s, our philologist son James tells me.

“Some people think it started in the trenches of World War I (notoriously muddy); others think it’s a reference to Jesus using a salve of mud to cure a man’s blindness; and of course, there are other explanations, such as toasting one’s competitors prior to a horse race on a muddy track” – with very interesting implications, to say the least!

I recalled the toast as I was driving along one of Cochrane’s slushy streets today before writing this week’s column on a most welcome above-freezing day following a long spell of frigid, window-frosting days. In fact, I had originally considered writing this column on the beauty of the frost designs on our windows. But mud splashes on the side of the car changed my mind.

In the accompanying photos are three of my encounters with the beauty of mud a few years ago. Like most of us, I’m really turned off by mud on vehicles, as on the tailgate of a pickup truck (bottom right) – and on my own car (bottom left). Upon second look, however, I’ve often been rewarded with stunning beauty.

I’ve celebrated that beauty photographically here (top) by cropping the original images, then increasing contrast and colourizing them. In the case of the mud streaks on the back of the pick-up truck, I also inverted the bright and dark areas to create a “negative” of the image.

Which brings me around to the good-natured toast, “Here’s to mud in your eye.” For this column, let’s reword that a bit and raise our cups in a toast to beauty hiding in plain sight: Here’s to mud for your eye!

© 2022 Warren Harbeck

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