Our Unforgettable London Encounter

Our Unforgettable London Encounter

Josh and I saw a lot of impressive sites in London–the National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament. Majestic, wonderful!
But my mind keeps on wandering back to one thing I saw that doesn’t appear in any guide book.
While walking above the Thames, on our way to a walking tour of “Jewish London,” Josh and I looked down and noticed an older lady wearing knee-high rubber boots and knee pads crouched over, picking her way through the rocks along the Thames as though she was searching for something.
So I called down to her, “Excuse me, Ma’am! What are you looking for?”
And thus began our fascinating encounter with a modern “mudlark,” a person who searches for archeological gems when the riverbed of the Thames is exposed at low tide.
The lady we met told us she had been mudlarking for 5 years, around once a week. That morning, after 2 hours of searching, she showed us her ziploc-bag full of treasures–a coin from the 17th century, 2 18th-century clay pipe bowls, a 17th-century crystal ornament, and a centuries-old token featuring an image of King George the ? (she wasn’t sure which one).
We tried doing some mudlarking ourselves and found nothing more than some oyster shells, pretty rocks, and a rusty 19th-century nail.
But after years of searching, this lady had learned the skill of finding treasures among the rocks and mud. Once, she told us with barely-concealed excitement, she had even found a 2000-year-old shard of Roman pottery!
The day after we met our modern mudlark, we returned to Israel, to regular life. My kids did a fantastic job of watching each other while we were away, and I am so grateful to and proud of them. But they also managed to make a terrific mess of the house. I’m hoping to have the house back in its regular shape (which wasn’t so amazing, to begin with) by Shabbat. Yep, the situation is that bad.
Sunday and Monday I worked on the kitchen. This morning I cleaned up my bedroom, which served as a playroom while I was away.
And all this cleaning up has given me plenty of time to contemplate how a mother’s life resembles that of a mudlark. Among the mess and the stress and the to-do list from today until tomorrow, there are treasures to be found–sparks of nachas and cuteness. Fleeting glimpses of the big picture, of the Jewish home I’m trying to build, connected with Hashem and inspired by the light of Torah.
If only, among all the mud, I knew how to find them! To finally be, oh how I yearn to be! A Mum-lark.


  1. Mumlark. Good one 😉

  2. another wonderful thought beautifully written :))

  3. it was good to read this now on my cleaning morning, i’ll get back to the sweeping now with renewed vigor.

  4. The Navi, Malachi says in the name of Hashem that the B’nei Yisrael are a ‘desired land’ (Malachi 3:12)
    R’Yisrael Baal Shem Tov taught that the meaning behind this description is that just like digging in tne ground reveals hidden treasures, so too can one find priceless treasures hidden within each Jew.

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