true grit


This is a tiny example of the material which can be found strewn about in ever-larger remnants according to the amount of wind, and the mood it’s in.  If it has come unstuck because of rain, no matter. It will sit there till it becomes dry and the next windwaft will bring it to your door. Or open window.

You might not intuit this, considering all that water around Venice, but this is an extremely dusty city.  Like any reasonable person I hate dusting, so that might explain my objections to the imperceptible but constant zephyrs of scuz.  Everybody outside Venice gets all worked up about the water, but the only thing we’re missing here is the simoom.

A few evenings ago the weather took a sudden turn from the clear and hot to the dark-gray and cold, a maneuver that was neatly accomplished by a blast of wind.  I felt the temperature suddenly drop and a tiny but ominous breeze passed across my over-heated shoulders and neck. Reef the fo’c’sle and belay the cabinboy!  I raced to shut the windward windows but before I could get to them the aforementioned wind had hurtled through the bedroom bearing invisible (I guess) but extremely tangible clouds of Venetian dust, sand, and general grit.

Sorry to ruin the magic, but the romantic city of canals is made of decomposing bricks, crumbling plaster, flaking paint, eroding stone, and disintegrating mortar and stucco, all of which produces everything from powdery dust to assorted chips, granules, motes, particles, and even the occasional scruple.  This medley had been flung across the bedroom floor, chests of drawers, the bed, and — shudder — the pillows.  The books I can ignore, but just passing my hand over the once-crisp top sheet was like stroking a grimy park bench under a desiccated purging-buckthorn tree.  The only positive thing about this is that, by now, it did not surprise me.  I experience more environment-fatigue when the weather’s dry than when the tide is rising.

There is no solution; the stuff comes in even when the windows are latched, just in a smaller amount.  I don’t know that anyone has ever thought of inventing dust-proof windows — maybe they have them in Timbuktu.  If they have, I’m sure they would cost a lot, when you add in shipping and customs costs.  Meanwhile, gnashing my teeth is free.

The bottle cap is just passing through.

Bricks seem dangerously prone to returning to their primal state. That’s why people cover them with plaster. Which also loses its grip.

it may be that the city will have returned to its primordial mud before it sinks beneath the waves. I don’t know how I feel about that, except at least then I wouldn’t have to dust the bed.


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Categories : Nature


  1. Mark says:

    You have my sympathy. I lived for four years across the street from a mountain of scrap metal that was forever being renewed by the train car-load, sorted by electromagnetic cranes, dropped into cargo ships, every step with a terrific clatter and roar and a rising cloud of red dust… that seeped in around every closed window. Ugh!

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      My God — my heart (and lungs) go out to you! I realize that there are plenty of dirtier places in the world, but since this is my little island I can only talk about what it’s like here. We should all be thankful we’re not living in Norilsk. Though my heart goes out to them too.

  2. john servente says:

    The air in Venice has become dirtier. Yes the place is crumbling causing dust, but the air is quite full of bunker particulates which are small enough to sneak in any window or door. And I think the lungs too. My wife says that 10 years ago, she didn’t have to wash her hair so frequently as now and she believes it is due to the dirty environment. The big, sudden winds like the garbine may move the dust around, but hopefully move the particulates into someone else’s environment.