april 15/RUN

3.5 miles
trestle turn around + extra
29 degrees / feels like 20
wind: 15 mph

Cold and windy. Again. Ran north, thinking I would have the wind at my back. Nope, in my face. Difficult. As I got closer (but not too close) to the porta-potty under the lake street bridge, it suddenly opened and a runner ran out. He was ready to go, I guess. Also saw a woman ahead of me walking down the service road to the Minneapolis Rowing Club. Rowers on the river today? If there were, I didn’t see or hear them. Ran past the trestle and stopped at the recently replaced steps. Then took them — about 30 steps, I think — down for a closer look. The river, with the sun reflecting the blue sky, the brown trees, the gray stone, looked almost mauve to me. Mostly brown, with hints of blue and gray and dark pink — where/how was I seeing pink? Saw a few fluttering birds, some ice on the edge of the entrance to the trail.

Almost forgot, but was reminded by hearing a dog bark here at my desk: Running south from the trestle, across the road from the fancy houses on Edmund, I heard a dog barking a deep, low bark in one of the houses. Then another a few doors down dog joined in. The second bark sounded almost like the impersonation of a frantic bark, like an unhinged kid trying to sound like a dog. I wondered which it was — a real bark or the copy of a bark? I never did find out, even as I listened for several minutes.

before the run

Today’s dirt topic: dust. Dust as the great equalizer (we all come from dust and return to it); how we are dust and more than dust; dusting as a sacred chore; dust as a fine powder we inhale/absorb without noticing; toxic dust; environmental racism and who does/doesn’t have access to cleaner air

1 — Dust Poem/ Philip Jenks

The idea was.
At least in theory,
Dust was a bad thing.

There was a bowl
Of it. At another
Point in time
The conclusion
Was reached
That everything
Was of it.

No season, no
Nothing to measure
To measure against
So no love or hate.
Left us without no
Moorings or so my
Father told me

Vanity tables of it?
Isn’t that what a vanity
Table is for?
What happens to
As its failings accrue?

No mission but to be clean.
Of itself.
But existing (time)
And problems there –
The problem of now
We are back here.

See the whole dust problem’s
No measure.
All’s dust, check.
All’s virtuous, check.
So why not live it up then?
And thus, YOLO etc. etc.

{These fok whirr pretty smart.
Thing is, even in
The dust bowl, the
Idea, a very American
One was that something
Wasn’t dust.
I wasn’t.
The Bowl wasn’t.
The dust wasn’t.

Since Ecclesiastes,
Been trying this one on.
(how’s that working out for you?)
One needn’t be geologically
Or for that matter
Psychologically trained to
Begin unpacking the diffident
And sometimes strained
Relation the nation holds with
All that is vanity.

The poet’s explanation of the poem was helpful for me in trying to dig in:

And I don’t say of myself much, or “I” much. I sometimes even just do search replace and take out “I” and put in “it” to try to take myself out as some small measure of humility.

“What happens to
As its failings accrue?

No mission but to be clean.
Of itself.

Dust Poem in PoetryNow

The idea of an “I” — writing as an “I,” being an “I.” How to navigate between a recognition that we are both more than dust and only dust (“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”–Eccleasiastes 3:20)? What is the “more” and how do we express/live it in ways that don’t deny the dust and in which our humility doesn’t erase our own existence? Is this too vague sounding? This question of being an “I” — having a unique voice, claiming a space — without doing violence to others (being too arrogant, taking too much) is one of the primary questions I struggle with in my life/writing. I tend to be too humble, too quick to erase or replace my “I”.

2 — Dusting/ Marilyn Nelson

Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.

For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.

My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.

I like how Nelson connects the chore of dusting — an everyday act of labor — with the deeper substance/s of life: tiny particles of ocean salt, algae and fungus spores, winged protozoas. For Nelson (and Jenks mentions it in his poem too), dust is more than dust, it is life, everything — and dusting is more than chore, but our access to that life.

Nelson’s reimagining dusting as sacred, reminds me of a poem I posted earlier this year, or late last year, Drift, which is about, among other things, rethinking the possible joy in shoveling snow.

3 — Dust/ Dorianne Laux

Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor —
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes —
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.

Dust = fine powder we inhale, surrounding us but often unnoticed. For Laux, truth as dust

dust: fine, dry powder consisting of tiny particles of earth or waste matter lying on the ground or on surfaces or carried in the air.

4 — Household Dust and Our Health

My 100+ year old house in the middle of the city gathers a lot of dust. I don’t often think about what all that means, and what all I’m inhaling/absorbing inside. Yikes.

As sure as the sun rises, houses collect dust. It gathers on our knickknacks and dirties the carpets. More than just dirt, house dust is a mix of sloughed-off skin cells, hair, clothing fibers, bacteria, dust mites, bits of dead bugs, soil particles, pollen, and microscopic specks of plastic. It’s our detritus and, it turns out, has a lot to reveal about our lifestyle.

For one thing, dust is far from inert. Those shed hairs and old skin cells can soak up a constellation of contaminants originating from consumer products that we bring into our homes. Other environmental contaminants can be tracked indoors on the soles of our shoes. So in addition to fluffy hair and garden dirt, dust can hold a witch’s brew of persistent organic pollutants, metals, endocrine disruptors, and more.

Not only does dust hold a long memory of the contaminants introduced to a house, but it’s also a continual source of exposure for the residents. Dust gets resuspended when it’s disturbed and will recirculate throughout the house, picking up substances before returning once more to the floor. “Year over year, dust accumulates in the home,” says Miriam L. Diamond, an environmental chemist at the University of Toronto. Even after regular cleaning, it still accretes because homes are tightly sealed environments, and the dust gets entrenched in carpets and crevices. Dust from an old house may retain legacy pollutants such as DDT that were banned almost half a century ago, she says.

Tracing the chemistry of household dust

5 — Dust, Toxins and Environmental Racism

So, we’re breathing in a lot of bad shit inside our individual houses — toxic chemicals that may not have even be used for decades. What about in our neighborhoods? And which neighborhoods are subject to more toxic and why?

At MCEA we believe in seeking justice for communities that have been harmed by historic and ongoing toxic pollution and contamination. By design and neglect, this harm has affected Black, Indigenous and other communities of color to a much greater extent than white neighborhoods.  Whenever municipal development is proposed in these communities, a necessary first step is to make sure the voices of neighboring community members are engaged and respected. Key decisionmakers must invite community members to the table to work towards a goal of eliminating new, harmful sources of pollution in neighborhoods experiencing systemic pollution and poor air quality.

The East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis is one of these communities. This neighborhood continuously ranks as having some of the worst air quality in Minneapolis, and it is still being harmed by one of the most brazen and widespread urban polluters in Minnesota history.  An insecticide manufacturer at East 28th St. and Hiawatha Ave. polluted the neighborhood with arsenic from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, resulting in a massive cleanup of contaminated residential yards. 

The area surrounding this Superfund site is recognized in state law as being overburdened by pollution. State law requires that no permit shall be issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in the area “without analyzing and considering the cumulative levels and effects of past and current environmental pollution from all sources on the environment.” 

The City of Minneapolis has proposed building a new “Hiawatha Campus” adjacent to the former manufacturing site to house city offices and vehicles. 

Ensuring community voices are heard in East Phillips

Environmental racism: Although the proposed project is expected to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in city operations, this would come at the direct expense of local environmental quality by increasing pollutants from traffic near this site. As a neighborhood that is 83% Black, Indigenous, and people of color, the East Phillips community would be expected to bear the brunt of the impact for the “greater good,” which is an unacceptable trade-off. Racism has recently been declared a public health emergency in Minneapolis. Knowingly increasing the amount of pollution in a neighborhood primarily populated by Native American, Latinx, East African and Black communities will only exacerbate this problem and demonstrate the hypocrisy of the city’s words.

Poor governance to bring new toxicity to the ‘Arsenic Triangle’

during the run

Did I think about dust while I was running? I tried. At one point, I remember thinking about the invisibility of dust and how it’s in the air, as opposed to dirt on the ground or sandy muck in the water. I also thought about breathing and breath and how dust travels between lungs.

after the run

Here’s something to add to the list of invisible things around us all the time, and another possible reason why I have “sinus episodes” so often: dust mites

Dust mites are microscopic, insect-like pests that feed on dead human skin cells and thrive in warm, humid environments. They are not parasites that bite, sting or burrow into our bodies. Instead, people who are allergic to dust or dust mites are reacting to inhaling proteins in dust that comes from dust mite feces, urine or decaying bodies. Any inflammation of the nasal passages caused by dust mites is considered a dust allergy.

Dust and Dust Mites