Dust

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 24, 2017 10:27 PM

In places like Sudan and Phoenix – which this week have been scarily similar in temperature readings – violent, oppressive winds whip up giant walls of dust. In Arizona, these walls are created from the winds that rush out of a collapsing thunderstorm, with the cold air that’s in front of the storm rushing down at such an incredible rate that it picks up massive amounts of dust and sand. Eventually, as it builds, these walls – which can grow as high as 3000 feet and stretch as far as 100 miles wide – will completely block the sun. On July 5, 2011, Phoenix recorded a dust storm over 5000 feet tall. We call them haboobs, from the Arabic word for “blown.”

When this dust settles, which it does eventually, it wreaks havoc on the air in general, and people and pets in particular.

We have never experienced a haboob and don’t want to. I’ve seen video and heard horror stories about what you’re supposed to do if you’re driving, how to shelter in place, blah blah blah dust. 

One of the first places we went when we moved to Tucson, before we’d even started building the house, was a wine tasting place called Wine Depot. It was an interesting establishment that served Old World wines from Germany, France and Spain. We were desperate for a place to go, having been so spoiled in California. We went on a Saturday, late afternoon. It was hot, and there weren’t many people there. The owner, who was German and his wife, who was Mexican, were both pouring wine. Soon enough, we were the only ones there and so we fell into conversation with the wife. 

We told her we had just moved to the desert, what our plans were. She asked where we were living and where we were building. She said to be prepared for the dust. The dust? we asked. It’s constant, she said shaking her head. You cannot escape it. 

She went on to tell us that if we had a dog, we needed to be careful it didn’t get mixed up with a Gila monster because, while not poisonous, they will bite and latch on, lock their jaws, and not let go. She told us of having to rush her dog to the vet with a Gila monster hanging off its neck. We laughed nervously. 

We haven’t experience the Gila-latch, but we have experienced the dust. Have we ever. It’s impossible to remove; impossible to get ahead of. You can dust using a rag and spray, and it doesn’t seem to matter.

Even the dust has dust. 

I dusted today. As I did, more appeared right behind where I had wiped my cloth. Miscellaneous and errant dog hairs also took up residence. It’s prolific, the dust, all-consuming. It makes the house look dirty even when, technically, it isn’t because I just dusted the other day. Thank dog I don’t have a lot of stuff. It would be impossible to keep it all clean. I’d no sooner get done dusting than I’d have to start all over. It would be an endless loop, a hopeless cycle, a horrible way to spend my days, the stuff of Stephen King novels. 

Kevin has the same issue with bugs. We’ve been inundated with box elders. Thousands of them cling to the house and the deck, dying slowly from the “kool-aid” that Orkin pours along the perimeter. Each day, he takes the power blower and blows them away. And as he walks away, ten more appear behind him.

Dust. Bugs. Haboobs.

Life in the desert in June.

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