Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Notes From My Knapsack 6-2-17

Notes From My Knapsack 6-2-17

Jeff Gill


A steady shimmering rain from above





It falls like the rain on the just and the unjust. Onto your sideboard and my bookshelves. Dust.


Particles of matter we think of when the sun's light slants through a window, illuminating a scattering of floating soft sparks.


Archaeologically, when we look to the past, we look down and dig through layers. Where do the layers come from? Liquid deposition from flooding can be one cause, landslides near slopes, but no matter where, an object left on the ground slowly sinks below the drift of decaying leaves and sifting sands, and the fall of dust.


The dogwood blossoms have departed to signal summer's presence; petals from catalpa blooms and tulip poplar (ah, the invisible beauties of Liriodendron tulipifera atop the canopy) separate and float down, to quickly melt into the groundcover and turn into . . . dust. Along with twigs and leaves and seed pods and cones and debris from autumns past.


Accentuating the dust that's always with us, this time of year and this year in particular: pollen. Slight, small, usually invisible, but now coating car hoods and outdoor tables and windowsills inside open sashes. Generally yellow but always a fine dust, filled with life, irritating to mucus membranes and scourge of the allergic. It moves pharmaceutical markets and makes us sneeze and weep and claw at our eyes, even so miniscule.


And it's pollen, we're told, not the green ferny leaves themselves, that created unimaginable ages past the beds of coal, thick and black, their origin in the steady deposition of the durable essence of pollen, the sun-drawn energy fossilized into the material which we've burned for power these last two centuries of human affairs.


Think how thickly those layers of dusty pollen had to accumulate to build up to where the ongoing weight and pressure and warmth changed it into seams of coal below the surface of the earth, which continued to pile up over it because of . . . dust.


We fight a holding action, at best. Visible surfaces to start, deeper corners and tops of high furniture seasonally, but when there's a move, when appliances are replaced, you find out how much dust escapes even the most diligent cleaner. The dryer lint filter puts out so much of it you wonder sometimes why clothes don't melt to nothing more quickly than they do; the vacuum cleaner bag is filled even when you think there wasn't all that much to be seen when you ran it the last few times, but dumping it out there's a quart and a half of fine grey dust, from somewhere.


And there's even interstellar dust, fine and mineralized but chemically distinctive, falling from the sky without even the fiery herald of a meteor to declare its arrival. A satellite launched to check out comet dust came back (in part) a decade ago, and told us that cosmic dust was more common than we'd realized, condensed out of the basic stuff of the universe as the stars formed. One scientist said that after the "Stardust" sample came back, and the signature of these micro-meteorites was known, he couldn't look for them anywhere without finding them. On your roof, in your yard, atop your picnic table.


We are dust, ourselves, but that's a good thing. A noble substance, in truth. Everywhere, dancing in the light. Dust.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County. Tell him about your encounters with dust at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.


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