Quicksilver cures

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.


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7 Responses to Quicksilver cures

  1. Number 9 says:

    Goodness it’s all so complicated following the environmental laws but we adapt. I have a couple of those mercury fillings myself! 70s child.

  2. i use to foster mama cats and kittens…..at the same time i had a dog…a 65 pound lab shep mix…
    the kittens would curl against her in the livingroom while she was trying to ‘stay clear of them’. She would sigh, look at me with an exasperated look….then get up and trot down the hallway to her other bed….the kittens would follow her and do their best to re’snuggle with her. she was the best dog…patient , kind and tolerant…despite the small creatures wrapped around her legs….. and drinking out of her water bowl.. she never hurt them or growled. She was the best.

  3. Our cat certainly rules the roost around our home. Our two dogs seem to give him a wide berth. Usually it just takes one good cat swipe (or slash) for dogs to learn.

    We had a similar orange “slasher” cat. He was typically very sweet, but once in a blue moon he would go psycho. Never quite figured him out.

    I love that very first moment an animal works up the nerve to come sniff your hand or give a kiss. I had that just yesterday with a new baby calf. It was so sweet!

    Thinking of you, Susan! xx, C

    • sswl says:

      Yes, orange cats seem to have distinctive personalities–or so my brother claims, whose had many.

      Love the picture of the new-born calf nuzzling your hand.

      Thinking of you, too, Christy, and your doggie.

  4. Lisa Neumann says:

    Susan, I never read without learning something. We, too often, forget we don’t have a disposable planet.

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