For St. Valentine's Day my sweetheart gave me several wonderful gifts, but my favorite is a set of magnets of the Periodic Table of the Elements. I'm no scientist; in fact my skills have never leaned the way of math or science. But chemistry was ABSOLUTELY my favorite science in school (maybe because it's so similar to cooking, or making art), and I used to gaze up at Mrs. Austin's Periodic Table of the Elements in class and sigh with delight at how organized and attractive everything was. Each element had a photo of what it looked like: a giant hunk of gold; a tube of neon gas; a perfect, oblong bead of mercury--a metal that was liquid at standard temperature and pressure! It was all so... measurable.
Chemistry was hard for me, but I loved the experiments, and figuring out how many oxygen atoms had to be on one side if this is how many you had on the other. I made poor Mrs. Austin's life hell, I'm sure. For days I felt like I was banging my head against a wall, and then suddenly, someone turned on the lights and I understood it all, and I loved it. And then chemistry was fascinating, a way of knowing the universe and making new things and deconstructing complexities to their smallest, most knowable pieces.
A while ago one of my best friends gave me a t-shirt with the periodic table on it, and not long ago I lost it, while doing laundry. I somehow left it at my sweethearts place (before we'd moved in together) and the laundry gods took it. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.
And now I have my own table, color-coded, so fine, each element its own marvelous substance all mixed up out there in the soup and mud and stone that we call our life, our world.