Africa Comes to America

September 23, 2015 — 12 Comments

saharaYes, you read the title correctly; it’s no typo. Africa itself arrived in America this summer—and it’s an event that apparently takes place every year!

In a recent post by one of Mere Inkling’s earliest subscribers, I learned about the annual Saharan Air Layer. It is an enormous dust cloud that transits the entire Atlantic Ocean and is vital to the western hemisphere, especially the Amazonian rain forests. More about the SAL below.

I find this phenomenon fascinating. It reveals how intricately balanced and interconnected God has created this amazing ecosystem we call earth.

I appreciate this fact, even though I don’t consider myself an environmentalist. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t recycle. What’s more, I would actually like to see brazen polluters incarcerated and tasked with personally cleaning toxic waste dumps . . . but that’s not the theme of this reflection.

It seems to me that part of being truly human, is possessing an appreciation—or even a love—for the world in which our Creator has allowed us to dwell. By love, I mean a deep affection for the flora and fauna, and even the mountains and valleys themselves.

I am not proposing idolatry.

I am in good company in valuing nature. C.S. Lewis found time spent walking in the countryside to be invigorating. It was renewing, for body, mind and soul.

Several years back a book was published with the peculiar subtitle, The Environmental Vision of C.S. Lewis.

The authors of Narnia and the Fields of Arbol explores the way Lewis displays his “ecological” concerns, particularly in his fiction. They also consider J.R.R. Tolkien’s similar attitude.

It is no coincidence that these two men, as soldiers during the Great War, had seen the worst violence humanity could do to nature. The ravages wrought by the orcs surrounding Isengard were echoes of the lifeless terrain of shell-shattered Western Front.

Writing this now, I recall a poem I wrote for Curtana: Sword of Mercy.

“A Foreshadowing of Epics” begins:

Filthy trenches greeted the novice soldiers’ eyes,

their two imaginations envisioned greener lands.

Crimson combat splashed red their vision,

and colored portraits one day painted with their words.

The frontlines were barren,

scarred earth stripped of all life.

Fallen trees mimicked casualties,

not even the smallest of creatures escaped death.

It may seem ironic to some that those very fields now are green, and teeming with life. It is the mercy of God that restores the scarred and heals the broken. And, as impressive as those miracles are evident in nature, they are far more wondrous when it is human lives that are transformed and resurrected.

So it is that I find the wonder of the barren and seemingly lifeless Saharan dust bringing nutrients to hungry forests on the other side of the earth amazing. No mere accident that.

If Jesus delays his return and this globe continues to spin for more centuries still, I would not be surprised to see the Americas returning to Africa a similar gift of life.

_____ has a short video about the Saharan Air Layer here.

12 responses to Africa Comes to America


    All the interconnectivity, the dependence on cycles – it’s all by perfect design. Wonder what other natural events occur constantly that we haven’t even noticed yet? The more you see and wonder, the more wonder full the world is. That dust is really amazing (now that I’m not sneezing)
    (And I always liked the Peanut’s Pig-Pen character “wearing the dust of ancient civilizations”. A cartoon more aware than many adults?)
    Thanks for the link. Thanks for the great post of dust and life


      Pig-Pen. Hadn’t thought of him for a while. I think you’re on to something there.

      I’m still in awe of the phenomenon addressed in this article. Walls of anything–be in water, sand, wind or locusts–seem quite ominous to me…


        Familiar with Paul Simon’s lyrics of Boy in the Bubble (Graceland album)? Something about “days of wonder and a long distant call” and a dry wind ( I should review that one, catchy tune, I recall).
        Barriers by nature are mysterious


    “It is the mercy of God that restores the scarred and heals the broken.” Nature’s metaphors for God – even after the Fall – continue in their own way to be, as Calvin wrote, “the theater of God’s glory” where “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19). We wonder at God’s mercy in the Saharan dust and in the “dust” of our lives.


      True. We stand in awe of the power and majesty of nature. How much more so ought we all to wonder in amazement at the One who created it.


        Hi Rob, I’ve read that some of our state’s minerals were originally coastal Africa. Few things strike me as incongruous as putting Africa and Maine together. Reading this post I think of the mighty tectonic plates as walls subducting, walls of continents colliding, altering or remaking.

        “Come, I am opening the door in the sky.” Then all in one moment there was a rending of the blue wall (like a curtain being torn) and the terrible white light from beyond the sky, and the feel of Aslan’s mane and a Lion’s kiss on their foreheads and then — …”

        Best, Sue


        Yes, living here by the enormous Cascadia fault I’m quite conscious of the massive forces to which you refer.

        Aslan does remind us we have something very amazing to look forward to!


    “It is the mercy of God that restores the scarred and heals the broken. And, as impressive as those miracles are evident in nature, they are far more wondrous when it is human lives that are transformed and resurrected.” It is, I think, an innate recognition of this fact that explains why Nature’s restoration of desolate places so profoundly resonates in our hearts.

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