Liquid politeness

It’s nice out … I looked up.

… and they call for rain, she added. I tied my shoes.

The only remaining indications are ice on the pond and the absence of green leaves. It is cool, but the ground is yielding. Living things stir, uncomfortably, and with what seems like great effort, as we all do when roused from a nap that went on too long. Where weeks ago, and in its solid form, water had splashed in silence, it now flowed with liquid politeness.

I came upon a maelstrom. Waylaid by small stones and twigs, bubbles were directed to double back. To be redirected. And reversed. And redirected once more. Eventually their numbers grew such that some moved forward to a point where adjacent flow could tug at the leading edge of the assemblage. Once this was caught, and because of the attractions among and between them, the entire group of bubbles would be swept away. The collective motion was reminiscent of times when,  as a kid, the teacher would roll a mercury thermometer off the lab bench. As it hit the floor we would all scream with excitement. What fun it was to herd quivering bits of quicksilver about the room.

Moments after the one captured here, I stood up to be sure that my glasses were perched where I had left them. They were. When I retrained my eye, I was surprised to see (or not) that my maelstrom-in-miniature had dispersed. I lacked the patience to watch as another gathered. I walked on.

[Before ending I must warn that (1) mercury is an extremely dangerous neurotoxin and you should never allow yourself to be exposed to it in any form, (2) modern thermometers are manufactured with oil or with alcohol and should not contain mercury, and (3) with regard to the sort of childhood experience I have described, I believe it was like many things back then in that I’m certain folks were simply unaware of the danger.]


17 thoughts on “Liquid politeness

  1. As a kid I broke a mercury thermometer and was afraid to tell my mom, so I hid the evidence. It probably got sucked up in the vacuum and forever emitted toxic fumes. Just thinking about things we did back then (and this in the 80s in the Soviet Union) makes my brain go dead. We would play with left over cigarette buds (lack of toys, I guess), and take apart all kinds of batteries, and were never ever supervised. Thank you for reminding of those times. 🙂 Super neat photo.

  2. Liquid Politeness. Now there’s an original and poetic term! Uncanny that things can go from turbulent to calm in the blink of an eye. A metaphor for life at times!

  3. One day wayyyyy back one of my students brought in a full container of mercury–around 1 L I would guess– as he was constructing a barometer for a class project. We had fun 🙂
    Now, about the glasses. Had to take ’em off, eh. We have a lot in common, don’t we? Mine are those very expensive so-called progressives that are supposed to allow you to see at various distances. I’m on my second set now, which means I’ve been wearing them for over 5 years and I’m still not used to them. As I type this, they’re perched right there on the desk and not on my face.

    • I use the cheap variety of reading glasses (+2.0) one finds at the grocery store. Good thing, for I am forever losing them, or stepping on them, or breaking them, or losing one lens or the other, or misplacing them. Joanna says she doesn’t know how I see out of them, they are always dirty, and usually anywhere but on my face.

      • His dad was a medical Lab Tech. I’d like to say we were all very careful with handling it but it was at least 33 years ago and my memory is a bit sketchy. Perhaps I consumed a neurotoxin at some point 🙂 At any rate Darrell is doing just fine. He designs piping systems for offshore production platforms and makes bags of $$$ doing it. he’s also married to my wife’s sister and has three daughters 🙂

  4. Interesting composition. I like the contrast between the cotton candy white and the brown leaves. Once again, you utilize light and shadow in a dramatic way.

  5. Your maelstrom reminds me of the cottony spider cocoons I’m finding everywhere now: even on dock lines. Your mention of the ground yielding reminds me of what it was like to begin feeling the ground “give” a bit after our last, extended drought. Rock-hard was the right description for the earth then, and it was such a relief to feel it coming back to life.

  6. Such lovely, poetic writing, D! You are heading into new creative territory it seems, and it’s wonderful. “Liquid politeness” … I love it. Really beautiful. The juxtaposition of the tranquil leaves to the maelstrom-in-miniature is striking! (l/e)

    • Thank you both so much. My recent reflections on writing have been genuine. I do feel very much out of my element. The only writing that I ever done has been highly technical. Although I enjoy this more reflective genre, I worry that I will embarrass myself. Your kind comment means a lot.

  7. I remember quite well the same pleasure playing with the quicksilver. Guess we all had a close call messing with the stuff.

    There will be a bit more winter tomorrow as we will see teens in the morning and a possible few inches overnight into Monday morning just to ring in spring with open arms.

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