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151 RE: COLLECTION It’s time. Time to take a wet paper towel to the top of my bookcase. The bookcase that has been sitting here, undusted, for seven months. I’ve avoided this chore simply because I find it annoying. Having to move all the picture frames, all the favorite books on display, all the knickknacks from inside jokes and miniature mementos just to wipe off a surface that will inevitably get dusty again. Pointless. However: Today the bookshelf dust has grabbed my attention. I was looking for my copy of Bluets because it’s just been one of those days—where chaos keeps on coming, making impacts and rippling out, echoing along with everything else that has gone wrong. Since this is not the first time a single day has felt like one big production of disarray, I know what to do to reset my nerves: ingest 240 doses of Maggie Nelson’s poetic exploration of her blue collection. During this search, my eyes eventually drifted up to the top of the bookcase and I saw something that I, for some reason, had yet to notice. My father’s ashes are collecting dust. 152 | Chelsey Clammer There’s more to dust than its unpleasant aesthetic. There’s some symbolism and metaphors its existence has accumulated . Dust also functions as a measuring mechanism. Its height and density speak to how long something has gone untouched. Understanding the symbolism of dust is easy, but accepting what it actually is, what all it is made from, isn’t. Particles in the atmosphere are unavoidable. They’re fact. Pollution, soil. The results of an active volcano. The dust that resides in human environments has a variety of ingredients, too. In the home, in the office, in all of those small spaces we’ve constructed to live and breathe in, the air contains a cocktail of fibers, hair, and minerals from the outside world. Meteorite bits, even. Plus, dead skin cells we shed by the thousands—daily. Because microscopically speaking, 40,000 deaths happen to each one of us, each day. Layers of us leave, jump ship, fall off, fall down. Which is to say that the particles all around us, the accumulated atmospheric specks that gather and coat our lives, consist of what our bodies leave behind. When my father died, I surprised myself by keeping parts of the life he left behind. I never thought I’d want a dead man’s possessions—especially not from the man whom I saw as the catalyst for every problem in my life. A few weeks after he died, though, I got an inexplicable urge to keep reminders of him—objects that created the story of his life. Sweatshirts. Wallet. Belt buckle. Pen. Even AA coins from his erratic at- Re: Collection | 153 tempts at sobriety. I didn’t understand why I wanted mementos , wanted to keep him near me, in my life. Throughout the nine years after his death, I hauled his favorite sweatshirt and childhood baseball glove around the country with me each time I moved, but I never realized what the impetus was to keep some of his shit. A thought slowly formed and revealed itself through each of those years, and it’s what kept me from tossing his objects away. Each memento was part of a story, stories that together created a fuller understanding of my father. Objects as trailheads to some of his tales as told by my family. Like the marble paperweight on my desk. A decade after Dad’s death, his own father died from liver cancer. I lived in the same city as our grandfather, but my sister was states away. She and her partner flew in for the funeral and stayed for five days. That first night, while we were all just hanging out and catching up on life, Kate looked at my desk, saw the small slab of polished marble. Regardless that ten years had passed since our own father’s death, Kate recognized that squat polished rock, recalled some memories, some impressions of Dad that never existed in my experience of him. Though the paperweight held little meaning for me, other than the fact that it was his, for my sister it was a memory from the time during that summer when she was sixteen and worked for him. This was when he was sober—those years before the cluster headaches and the depression hit him—and so my sister’s stories...


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