Mixed Messages

The usual Saharan Air Layer is said to be between two and three miles thick, its base about a mile above the surface of the Earth. The size of this year’s phenomenon is, according to atmospheric scientists, considerably larger than usual; I don’t know if that means it is deeper or broader or both. I know it is not a sandy-colored layer of dust; it is more like grey putty, concealing every bit of sky. There’s not a trace of blue above. I question the distance from the ground, too; it seems to have filled the atmosphere all the way to the Earth’s surface. The fact that very high air quality indices (meaning very low quality air) are reported all along the southern/Gulf tier of states reinforces that perspective, I think. People with breathing difficulties are experiencing more distress than usual, according to what I’ve read. I would have thought the cloud would have moved on by now; no, but when?


Last year, on my wife’s birthday, we went to dinner at kBird, a northern Thai restaurant in Little Rock. This year, we are avoiding restaurants entirely for the time being, so I will prepare her birthday dinner: sea scallops with a chipotle glaze (or something like that), along with boiled potatoes with butter (and loaded with chives from the chive farm on our deck) and steamed green beans. I may sneak out today and get some ice cream for dessert.

The only celebrations we ever have for one another’s birthdays are dinner out. Usually, it’s a more upscale, expensive dinner than normal “dinners out,” but rarely anything earth-shaking. We’ve been married forty years; even special occasions have taken on an aura of “routine” about them. We’ve even stopped buying cards for one another. I wonder, are we unique in the abandonment of that age-old ceremonial acknowledgement of such events?


Spikes and valleys. That describes my intellectual activity of late. I go from excited enthusiasm about ideas that challenge my thought processes to a dull lethargy in which thinking is equivalent to mind-numbing factory work. Maybe it has always been that way. Probably.


The sound of wind chimes, loud and intrusive, is interrupting my ability to think (or to work effectively on the assembly line). So, I will go in the kitchen and see what damage I can do. Pour a little wine in my half-empty coffee cup, perhaps, or have a bowl of cereal doused with tomato juice and dressed with salt and cinnamon. No, that won’t do. I’ll just engage in robotic actions that result in something moderately edible. More coffee, though; hot, strong coffee. That might get my head out of the Saharan Air Layer.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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