I’m reading up on worms, and while I haven’t checked with anyone yet, I think this is a type of tube worm in the family Sabellidae, commonly called a feather duster worm. Which if you think about it, is an odd way to refer to its gorgeous feather-like anatomy.
Why not call it a feather worm? Or a bird worm? Or wing worm? (okay, that last one sounds like ring worm with a lisp) Feather duster? As in, we pluck birds and use their beautiful plumage to wipe the cocktail of dust mites and car exhaust off of our tawdry trinkets?
Or is it a sly reference to “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” knowing that worms might eat our bones? This feather duster will make short work of our dusty remains. But that just can’t be. This isn’t the worm of our morbid funerary fantasies. This little beauty lives underwater. I doubt that the likes of Ahab are at the top of its preferred dining list.
There is one aspect of this common name that I appreciate, and that is its common-ness. It’s a workaday name for something extravagantly beautiful, an ode to all of those in the cleaning industry, to everyone who has ever done the hard work of trying to keep a shine on life, an ode to every woman and man who has ever been relegated to cleaning up the mess of others.