dust to dust
It is finally spring. I know this because when I sent my son outside to play with his Llauma* he came back covered in dust. Covered like he was a caramel apple dipped in crushed almonds, but instead of something delicious and sweet, his face and hands were crusted over with grey dirt and tiny pieces of gravel. We stripped his clothes off, including his socks, which left grey dust circles around his ankles. “I was going to say that his pants don’t look that dirty,” James said, “but then I realized he’s not wearing his grey pants, he’s wearing blue jeans.”
I know that when most people think of spring, they don’t think of dust. They might think of mud, or tiny shoots of green, or flowering trees. But in Alaska spring isn’t a smooth and lovely transition from winter to summer. Instead of a beautiful burst of life, spring is winter’s messy, protracted death. Everything that has been frozen in snow and ice for six months – grass, leaves, old receipts, animal excrement – is uncovered and begins to rot in the above-freezing temperatures. There is a pervasive smell of dog shit and decay. And in ditches, parking lots, driveways and cul-de-sacs, piles of snow dwindle, exposing half-a-year’s worth of sludge. It’s left over from sander trucks that toss dirt onto icy roads. The layers build up during the countless cycles of snow-melt-freeze, sprayed up from our studded tires to coat the berms. It’s one of my least favorite sights of winter: old, filthy snow. Used snow. Garbage snow. But there always seems to be a fresh layer to cover it up.
At least until April. Then there is only dust, the dried-out and crumbling husk of another dead winter. I won’t mourn its passing. I’m ready for the big, green leaf-and-life-explosion of summer to come.
*Llauma is what we call his grandma Laura.