There is really nothing louder than glass breaking when it gains speed on its way down into the metal bin and crashes against the floor, shattering into the slivers you do not want to have impale you.
But ground glass, is a term that hasn't been part of my experience. But is the title of the newly released book of essays by writer Kathryn Savage. Reading each page is a walk through a woman's discovery of place, her home-based place and those of others she would later encounter as she dealt with the deep feelings of loss and grief and how the places we hold as home can harm us as we simply live our lives in toxic places.
Kathryn shares the intimate remembrances of time with her father, who longed to live, but whose body could not heal. She comes to believe her neighborhood and so many others housed near industrial complexes could be at risk of exposures to what lies beneath in the aquifers, in the ground water and certainly in the air and soil.
She and I have spent hours talking over the last several years. But what I didn't know is her conversations and visits to other toxic sites and the people we meet inside the pages of Ground Glass. Kathryn is a writer, and introduces us throughout the book to writers, poets and artists who have influenced the direction of her artistic search for the connectedness to land and in many times to land harmed by man.
As it turned out Ground Glass is a medical term for the way lungs look in x-rays and CT scans, the gray areas can indicate grave health concerns such as: pneumonia, cancer and COVID-19 and in this book, an indication doctors noticed in the x-rays of the author's father: a hazy opacity resisting interpretation.
His health triggers thoughts on how deeply we have all consumed the toxins around us, until as Kathryn describes herself as an industrial waste site. "I am both who and where I've come from." Bodies, she says are environments.
Her thoughts that his disease could have been accelerated by lived experiences actually triggered LEAD Agency over 20 years ago to conduct a Health Survey to find out if living here is dangerous to our health, and reminded me that it is time to take to the streets with that and a couple of other surveys this summer to ask you questions you long to be asked.
Kathryn appeared one hot afternoon last year when we discovered the first 2 child-made dams on Tar Creek and jumped in with my son and I to remove some of the stones to allow water to flow more freely.
Since then she has been organizing events bringing people together in Tulsa first to focus on Tar Creek and secondly to hear the poems of the incarcerated men and women and to meet the two women who have organized the programs that bring poetry behind bars.
One of the last pages of Ground Glass has a truly remarkable statement: A percentage of the sale of this book will support work being done by the LEAD Agency and the Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution. She goes on to say, "Both organizations take action to counter environmental hazards and stand up for healthy water, air and environmental justice through education, advocacy and collaboration."
Now, that will throw you. What a gracious way to honor the work LEAD Agency does and to help us keep doing it.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim