I am dust; to dust I shall always return.
But don’t assume as you disturb my rest
with your omnipotent kitchen broom that
I am mere debris to be swept up and away.
Remember. We are interfused, you
and I, suspended in each other,
vestigial particles of endless galaxies,
diminishing and becoming, deposited
but for a moment amid yesterday’s dinner
crumbs and dog hair. Tomorrow?
I am cyclonic, demanding skeletal trees
to dance with me through dry valleys;
or I am breathed out by destructive
detonating demons only to settle, leaden,
on a sandal-sheathed foot severed
from the child who sat at grandma’s
table while she cooked the evening meal.
But I am also the cadence of the soil, eternity
dug up in a spade and sown with ordinary
mystery. Still, don’t assume I am magic either,
or that you are, except when in a distant
sun-soaked garden we tango with the departing
light and time’s muted colors bend onto our
backs and we carry life across ancient seas
to fertilize the future. Remember. You are
dust; to dust you shall forever return.
Dust was in the news this week. Popular Science reported that dust from Asia might be fertilizing sequoias in California (http://www.popsci.com/asian-dust-california-sequoias). In stark contrast, another headline from this week reads—“Inside Mosul, a huge blast, then screams, dust and horror.” Bombs flattened houses on a street in Mosul, and citizens were buried beneath the rubble.
Across the globe in Las Vegas, a dust storm uprooted trees, stopped traffic, and interfered with visibility (http://nypost.com/2017/03/31/insane-dust-storm-wreaks-havoc-on-las-vegas/). And the Washington Post tapped into a dusty metaphor for a political perspective: “Another Trump Promise Bites the Dust” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/03/31/another-trump-promise-bites-the-dust/).
Taken together during the Christian “dust and ashes” season of Lent and on the week when the lectionary remembers a valley of dry bones dancing again (Ezekiel 37) and the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11), these headlines remind me of how complex and ordinary, fragile and resilient, sometimes life giving and sometimes life-destroying dust-birthed humanity is. These headlines also remind me that we are all connected across complex geographies to each other and to creation.
We are dust; to dust we shall return. In between? God calls us to carry in our bones the light of Gospel justice and hope.