Zen and . . . Dust.

Everything here – positively *everything* – generates dust. The winter, and the sand, and the various chemical salt compounds everywhere. . . When they dry? They create dust, which we track in every time we leave the house and come back in. Sheet rock compound? Fun when wet. Dust when dry.

This morning  (a bit yesterday, too) “we” battled (Tim physically, me psychologically) with Schluter Kerdi waterproofing membrane, which is adhered to the wall with a special “mud,” which needs to be at just the right consistency, as does Tim’s temperament when he’s troweling it onto the walls above chest height and gravity is doing its tireless job, causing large blobs of it to plop onto the floor and his sleeves and the tops of his shoes. It eventually dries. And chunks of it fall off, gritty and gray, camouflaged against dark floors and patterned carpets, to be trod upon, crushed, and turned to. . . dust.

Today’s special, not-bathroom-related project was the ceiling speakers to complete (I think?!) our surround sound system. Perhaps not shockingly, installing ceiling speakers requires cutting holes in the ceiling, and something about the properties of sheet rock dust allow it to move much more freely on the slightest of air currents in a house than you’d ever imagine.

It didn’t occur to me to shut the ceiling fan off until after the first speaker was done and I was obsessively vacuuming its aftermath off the floor, the baseboard, the dark brown leather couch, the palm tree we’d moved across the room to avoid exactly this effort, the console table with the rough, reclaimed wood top that’s fully 12 feet away, and the kitchen chairs that were acting as ladder stand-ins. Ceiling fans are an excellent dust-dispersion mechanism. We just dusted everything on Saturday. It’s freaking Tuesday.

Also, somehow, it seems to me that the dust from “established” sheet rock (such as that which is part of the living room ceiling, which has been in place for over 2 years) develops a slightly different, stickier molecular structure than the dust that comes from sanding newly-set compound, but that might just be because it’s been a few months since my last encounter with new sheet rock compound dust (a fate which is quickly closing in on me once again). You can’t just vacuum this stuff up. It floats around and adheres to every conceivable surface as if held by a glue with approximately the adhesive property of the back of a sticky note. Not crazy sticky, but enough to cause a nervous tic to develop in your left eyelid after the 5th swipe of the vacuum nozzle leaves a translucent, slightly fuzzy white streak on every surface you thought you’d just cleaned.

Tim, bless his heart, had pulled out one of my old flour-sack kitchen towels, which, in some earlier iteration of its service, had been used to clean up after either a red wine spill or a murder, and had now been relegated to dust rag status. He wet it, wrung it out until he nearly tore a hole in it, and apparently used it to wipe up some dusty surface. I know this because once I realized that I wasn’t going to get off with an easy 5-minute vacuuming sentence, I discovered it, laying in a damp-dry heap on the island countertop. Thinking, “wow, that saves me a step,” I grabbed it and used it to wipe up the dust streaks that were clinging stubbornly to the arm and side of the leather couch. Clearly, it was harboring a universe of wet dust particles that had been magically transformed into a murky slurry, which dried in a few seconds on the leather to a dull, chalky sheen. I took a deep breath, brought it over to the kitchen sink, and rinsed and wrung it out several times until I was sure the dust was gone, then trudged back across the room and tried again, more successfully this time.

Gently, I held my twitching left eyelid closed, exhaled a silent “oooooooohhhhhhhmmmmm,” and spent the next 45 minutes fully consumed by my task, ultimately emerging, victorious, in today’s Battle of Dustville. Bring on the sanding of the bathroom sheetrock. I’m ready.

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