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My Ode to Dust - 09/09
Sep 30, 2009
Dust, my old friend, I hate you.
Dust, my unwelcome partner, I love you.
You arrive just like clockwork every fall to herald in another harvest season, brutally reminding us of your annual annoyance. You go unnoticed most of the year, lying in wait, letting us enjoy our sunny days, giving us a false sense of security as we go about our summer lives. But then, come fall, you blast us with your grainy particles as our armies of machines traverse your fields. You rise up in the air as if to prove your supremacy over our human endeavor and you proudly announce: “Just a minute there. This is not going to be as easy as you thought.”
Dust, you are everywhere.
To begin with, you’re propelled out of the back of the potato digger with enough thrust to launch the space shuttle, covering everything in sight and getting into every pore and crevice that there is available. You enter closed cabs of trucks, you irritate our eyes, you cover dashboards, you get into our mouths and nostrils, your coat our hair and clothes with your fine brown mist. You make us cough, sneeze, gasp for air. And that is just in the field.
On the road, you really go all out, dust. I got to hand it to you. I’m sure you enjoy the white-outs you cause when trucks pass each other on the country dirt roads, causing us to drive through your massive wall of brown drifting dirt, the knuckle clenching grip you cause us to have on the steering wheel. I’m sure you are laughing at us as we finally emerge, nerves on edge, from the thick blinding cloud, letting us finally see the road again.
And then at the cellar, the wind whips you into a frenzy and you pelt our faces with a million tiny daggers. Oh, we try gamely to defend against you. We cover our faces and we button up the top button of our coats. We wave our hands in front of us and hold our breaths. We turn our heads and squint our eyes, but to no avail. Dust, you win every time. You are truly a pain.
And yet without you dust, where would we be?
Potatoes do not grow on trees, after all. They are not picked cleanly off of some leafy bush. The very nature of our crop invites you into our presence every fall. Potatoes are planted into the ground. They grow in and lie with the dirt all summer long. The plant on top of the soil is of no consequence. It’s what’s in the dirt that we want. And where there is dirt . . . there is dust.
Without you there would be no crop. Without you there would be no potatoes. Without you there would be no McDonalds, no french fries, no income. Dust, without you . . . there would be no me.
And so we put up with you, knowing that you are a needed annoyance, a necessary evil, a short aggravation in our long year of work. And yes, in some ways, your stinging blasts on our faces make us appreciate our proper place in the big picture.
I can imagine sometime in the future, I hope in the very distant future, when it is all over. I will be sitting in my wheel chair in a nursing home and I will overhear a young staff worker complaining about the dust.
“Why I just dusted the furniture in this place just last week”, she would be saying as she annoyingly walks around with a dust rag and a can of Pledge. “I can’t understand why everything gets so dusty so soon.”
I can imagine her looking over at my blank face, just because I happen to be sitting there, and asking, “Tell me Len. How can there ever be anything good that can come of all this dust?” She then turns around to continue her work expecting no response.
Oh, but I will have a response.
If I can still remember that I once was a farmer, if I can still recall that I once plied my trade immersed in your billowing clouds, driving through your blinding haze and enduring your stinging blasts. If I can still remember all of that . . . then I will indeed have a story to tell.