ASHES TO ASHES

Dateline: The New York Times, Thursday, February 10, 2011. A top news story claims that there is a worldwide proliferation of dust. Apparently, there is more dust in the air now than there has ever been in recorded history (you can check the article for the exact dimensions, which escape me at the moment). This comes as an immense relief to me. I have been thinking for quite awhile that the whole dust thing is my fault. 

My mother brought me up right. I had chores, including walking around the house with a rag, wiping everything off. It didn’t make sense to me, because as I wiped, I could see the dust take to the air and float around aimlessly. This was in the era before the Swiffer was invented, and my Mother thought Pledge left a waxy residue, and so we just pushed the dust around every week. Never one to cross my mother, I followed her directives as an obedient daughter and continued this fruitless exercise as long as I lived at home. 

As soon as I had my own house, however, things changed radically. As a young married person, it was all I could do to figure out how to get some edible food on the table every night. Making beds and tidying up was not high on the priority list, and dusting was all but forgotten. I didn’t change my ways until children were born. So by my estimation, seven years worth of dust went out into the atmosphere from our apartment alone. 

Once there were little ones to look out for, housekeeping crept up on the “to do” list, along with childproofing and arranging play dates. I loved those children, and so I attempted to make their environment livable and safe. Plus, by that time, there were Sniffers, and so I swished them around a couple times a month. Life was good, but I probably continued to send dust wafting into the atmosphere. 

These days, it is just my husband and I here. We have quite a few pets, however, and so in addition to dust, we generate a decided amount of animal hair. I find that even the Swiffer can’t keep up with the detritus that settles on all my tabletops and floors. I have let myself off the hook a little by claiming that a lot of the dust around here is due to the fact that we live in a very old house. In other words, all this dust isn’t actually OURS, but is the ancestral dust of inhabitants past, sifting out of nooks and crannies onto my collectibles. 

But now, I realize that I am simply a victim of global warming, the melting of the polar ice caps, and the drought in China. My dust is the dust of the world. As I Swiff, I am removing particles of earth from my brethren in the Far East. That ugly blob of gray stuff on the floor has, perhaps, a few hairs from an endangered Polar Bear. Housekeeping has now become a way for me to bond with my fellow earthlings. Is is mystical. 

Now, when I look around at the table tops, and as my husband playfully writes “DUST ME” across the dining room table with his index finger, I feel a powerful sense of elation. It’s everywhere; it’s forming little disgusting balls under the furniture; it’s getting worse every year. But it’s not my fault—it’s yours.

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