Sitting here staring at the screen, wanting to write and not having a single thing to say. Probably it means there’s something looming in the background I don’t want to think about. I’m feeling the urge to bake cookies, rush out to a shopping mall, get lost in a movie. Better than wine, let’s face it.
Next to me on the red couch, the gray cat is decorously licking herself, eyes narrowed to slits. Two squawking scrub jays chase each other past the ironwood tree. The scene outside my window gradually brightens, as the sun breaks through morning fog. A white moth floats past.
You don’t see moths and blue jays fretting about what they should do. They just do it. Dogs, though, sometimes seem in an agony of indecision. The ball or the bone? Stay close to my human or play with the bad boys?
Yesterday I met a dog who stole my heart. She was small, a couple of hands high, with rough black curly hair except for her chin and eyebrows. They were stark white. When I held out my hand, she shrank back, then slowly gathered courage, sniffed, licked, wagged her tail and smiled. I wanted to snatch her out of the car, take her home, and shower her with love. Unfortunately, she belonged to one of the women I’d just had lunch with whom I like very much and who dotes on her dog.
I wonder what my cats would do if I brought a dog home? Once we brought a little black kitten home to live with our white shepherd, Bo. The kitten stood at the top of the stairs with hackles raised and hissed. Bo, who was probably 20 times larger, cowered at the bottom, afraid to advance a single step. Eventually they got used to each other.
White eyebrows was pretty timid, I’m not sure she’d get used to our cats, especially the orange one who terrorizes small children. Sometimes he even scares me, and I’m a lot bigger. There’s a certain nasty, edgy meow…then, if you walk too close, slash! Ribbons of blood appear on your ankle. He didn’t used to be like that–never a lap cat, but not a slasher either. I started wondering if he was getting mercury poisoning from the tuna in the cat food. They tell you not to give canned tuna to children more than once in two weeks these days, and here we were giving it to the cats every couple of days. So, I cut way back, and I think it might actually be making a difference. Now he’s only in slasher mode when he’s hungry.
Isn’t there something basically wrong with a world where you have to worry about poisoning cats and children with mercury-laden tuna? Weird to think they used to put mercury in dental fillings, and didn’t those little silver balls we used to decorate cakes and cookies with have mercury in them? I think it was back in the 1980s when we first started realizing how toxic it is. Even in the hospital we used to play with the little quicksilver balls that fell out when a glass thermometer broke. Then, overnight, we had to call in a hazardous waste team from maintenance who came in suits and masks and gloves to deal with our plaything while we filled out documentation forms in triplicate. It was more fun, but probably rolling little balls of mercury around in the palm of your hand isn’t any better for you than eating it.
At one time, mercury was a treatment for syphilis. Peter Allen Lewis, author of The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present, writes: “…one eighteenth-century recipe called for mixing the liquid metal with hot chocolate, though the author cautioned against this exotic beverage because he felt that the ‘chocolate’ was too dangerous.”
In the great scheme of things, it’s coal-fired power plants and other kinds of industrial pollution that are the biggest contributors to mercury in the environment and in the tuna (and shark and swordfish). And now long-closed mines in various parts of the world are reopening because of the demand for mercury in producing compact fluorescent bulbs, which are becoming mandatory to reduce use of energy produced by, say, coal-fired power plants. So: miners will be exposed to high levels of mercury, mining will produce mercury-contaminated run-off, and fluorescent bulbs will contribute to the great piles of hazardous waste to be dealt with–all so we can reduce mercury contamination by coal-fired power plants?
Really, there just aren’t clean fixes anymore.