The Imperial Dunes, California, 2010

A massive plume of desert dust has crossed the Atlantic. It began in the Sahara after a heavy rain. Now it’s tinting the skies in Miami as it bleeds across the American South, generating brown haze and fantastic sunsets. They’re calling it the Gorilla Dust Cloud, and you can see it from outer space.

Reading about sand plumes has left me fantasizing about a quiet life of trade winds and shipping lanes. Tonight I’m reciting the far-flung and elemental grammar of rain shadow deserts, the Siberian anticyclone, and the Eurasian steppe. And sand, a substance that seeps into everything like today’s digital flotsam of anxiety, outrage, and compulsion.

Kōbō Abe writes beautifully about sand in The Woman in the Dunes: “While he mused on the effect of the flowing sands, he was seized from time to time by hallucinations in which he himself began to move with the flow.”

Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to hit record highs across the nation because too many Americans believed Jesus, the Second Amendment, and free markets would shield them. Now we have so many unnecessary dead and many more to come. At midnight tonight, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey will require some out-of-state travelers to quarantine for two weeks.

The arrival of a sand plume across American skies has the aura of a cosmic warning, as if the virus has briefly been granted physical form to remind us of nature’s blind logic.


Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood – Sand

Nancy & Lee | Reprise, 1968 | More
Each night in 2020, I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these days into my memory. Before the world changed completely.
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