Dust if you must

When Mrs Rose Milligan of Lancashire wrote a poem by this name exactly 20 years ago, I don’t think she realised how far around the world her verses would go. It was published in a local women’s magazine called The Lady and had it not been for the Internet and social media, it is indeed doubtful that it’d have reached me here in Muscat.

I first came across the poem about two years ago and have since returned to it a number of times. While Rose may have had different things in mind when she wrote it in 1998, the message in there is so relevant to our lives today.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair

Last week, I was getting a lift from a colleague as I had to pick up my car from the garage and it was like a new world out there. It was a particularly spectacular sunset with clouds, high and low, with the muted blues and purples shredded with the flaming orange.

When you are not rushing (and preferably not driving yourself either), there’s a whole world out there to be seen and absorbed. We, as a family, have long stopped going on those weekend drives out of Muscat to forgotten villages, hidden pools, shaded groves and silence everywhere except for the sound of the rushing water through a falaj nearby. And when you don’t do it for a while, you forget how good it feels to be out there and not just camped indoors, be it at home with Netflix or at a restaurant or a friend’s.

Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Talking about friends, and family too, it may look like we are all so connected but at the same time, we are far more isolated than our grandparents were. Liking a post is really not the same as having a chat with someone or sharing a cup of tea. We know that but just can’t seem to find the time to do anything more.

I remember my neighbour complaining about her hectic work schedule and travel which left her with little time and energy to spend with her little ones and she kept planning to cut down. She did, but by then the kids were grown and one is leaving for college next year. Now they don’t have time to sit with her. Old story, but it still keeps happening.

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;

There are a few things that have been on my adventure list forever – skydiving, white river rafting and my current dream, ziplining - hopefully in a rainforest somewhere. I have done absolutely nothing about any of these, and the closest I came to ziplining was reading the details on a brochure at Koh Samui this summer.

And then I bumped into my colleague in the office parking lot just after the weekend. One of the quietest and gentlest people I’ve come across, a father to five girls and never without a smile despite his challenging job profile, he is the last person I would think would go for any extreme sports. Out came his phone and a lovely picture of him with two of his daughters, about to begin their ziplining experience in Musannah.

I had never heard him talk about it: Instead, he just went and did it.

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
to… Ponder the difference between want and need?

Probably not where Rose was leading us with her line about contemplating the difference between want and need, I met a young woman the other day who put a completely different spin on it. In her early 30s, she is now a successful entrepreneur, an occasional sculptor, an occasional chef and a single mother. After years of pleasing others, maintaining a perfect home and a perfect image, she decided to make a list of what she wanted as opposed to what she thought she needed to do.

She followed that in her personal and work life, and that in turn helped her sort out what was really important. She now finds she has more time for her little boy than ever before, and her house is finally a home.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

Time to go ziplining then!

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