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.
Joseph and Margaret Cavanaugh, ca. 1847
There’s Bridget and Michael and Catherine and Ann, there’s Francis X., Moira, Theresa, and Sean: none of them shivering, everyone fed, head to feet sleeping, four butts to a bed.
The 1845 Irish potato crop failure resulted in widespread famine. More than one million Irish people—one out of every nine—died. Hundreds of thousands emigrated to England, Scotland, and the New World. Mortality rates of up to 30% were common on the “coffin ships” crossing the Atlantic.