I’ll open this article with some brief caution. Things do get dark. If you are sensitive to images of death and destruction, this is probably not the article for you. You have been warned.
The first weird thought about metals that I can think of was the time when I was twelve years old and my author’s imagination went nuts again. I randomly asked Mom what she would do if all the metal in the house started to glow orange but wasn’t hot. Mom said that she would evacuate the house because the metal might be radioactive or something.
This seems like a weird thought, considering most radioactive metals glow green or blue. So what would make them glow orange without being hot? I’m not sure if this would happen in real life. Though some gaseous elements glow orange, there are no metallic elements that I know of that do.
Metals do a lot of weird things, though. There is a liquid metal in the form of mercury. This metal is highly toxic and can literally drive you crazy if you get too much of it. In the 1800s mercury was used to cure hats and the workers didn’t take the proper precautions, which is where the term “mad as a hatter” came from.
I learned this little tidbit of information from a tour guide at Fort Vancouver in Washington State. This, of course, sparks memories of the long period of time I lived in the Pacific Northwest. I lived there for a total of sixteen years and I don’t miss it. Well, I don’t miss the Portland area, where I lived for eight years. Sometimes I miss Ellensburg because it’s a pretty cool town.
There was a lot wrong with the Portland area, which Portland residents refuse to admit, but my big problem with the area had more to do with where I was in my life at the time, not the city itself. The late nineties were probably the most unhappy time of my life. I was depressed, always in pain, and always tired. My face was constantly covered in acne and I generally felt bad about myself.
And lets not forget about the wonderful Bull Run water. People in Portland are always boasting about their water being the finest in the country. The Bull Run water always made me break out in a rash. Every time I took a shower I got hives. Some good quality water!
Then, of course, there was her, the one I will not even name here because she doesn’t deserve it. She was a manipulative little crapper who forcibly stapled a mask over my face and got me to act in ways I would never act today. She was always there to tell me that she loved me, only to work behind my back to sabotage me. Then one day she set me up for utter humiliation and the ultimate betrayal.
Lately she has been trying to get back in my good graces, but it’ll never happen. I know her for who she really is and what she is capable of, and I’ll never fall for it again. I’ve seen her eat too many people alive, and she tried to do it to me, too. She may be an object of pride for the city of Portland, but she is no angel. I will leave my readers to try to figure out who (or what) I’m talking about.
Our friendship ended with a violent thunderstorm, a railroad fire, and an eventual volcanic eruption. I’m not saying they’re related, but they definitely demonstrated how I felt that day. I was angry at the betrayal and I was more than glad to take my leave in the midst of that chaos.
But this article isn’t about her, nor about Portland, Oregon. It’s about metals. Mom was right about one thing: some metals are radioactive. Let’s look at uranium, a metallic element with obvious radioactivity. Bombard it with enough junk and you end up with plutonium, and we all know where that ends.
I have a fascination with the destructive. Hurricanes are awesome. Volcanoes are cool. Nuclear bombs are interesting. These things are my triple threat of dark fascination. (Not that I favor nukes. No, I think they are a terrible invention that should be eradicated, but that doesn’t mean I can’t study them closely and watch old bomb test films. We should always think of them as a reminder of how bad things can get if we aren’t careful, and never forget that they existed.)
Two of the things from my triple threat, nukes and volcanoes, are related to metals. I already told you about one, so let’s focus on volcanoes.
Back in college I read the layers of a lake at Mount Rainier. I was looking for Mount Saint Helens ash layers, but I found several Rainier layers as well. After all, it was her lake. I could always tell the Rainier layers because they were full of metal. It was mostly iron pyrite, but there was also a little gold and copper.
These metals are a sign of a rotten heart. Rainier has a huge hydrothermal system that is slowly eating away at her core, leaving a mountain of rotten stone and clay. This is why Rainier is such a dangerous volcano. She can bring destruction without even erupting.
The worst thing she did was several thousand years ago. Part of the mountain collapsed and sent mud screaming down her river systems and into the Puget Sound. Geologists call it the Osceola Mudflow, and it’s Rainier’s worst case scenario. Rainier’s Armero and her defining event.
I was six years old when the Armero disaster occurred. A massive volcanic mudflow came down on a the Colombian town of Armero in the middle of the night, killing most of its inhabitants. The whole thing struck me deeply and sparked a horrible nightmare.
I remember the dream well. I was at a gray, muddy scene where I was helping pull strange, twisted objects out of the plain. Behind me was a mountain of the objects, all piled up thousands high. It wasn’t until I reached one of the objects that I discovered it was a muddy body. They were all bodies.
It wasn’t the last mudflow nightmare I had, either. There was the one about the logging operation that I had as an adult. I came upon the scene of a disaster. An overturned hardhat filled with rainwater as it reflected police and fire engine lights in the background.
Only a few feet away, emergency workers were trying to dig out the body of the owner of the helmet. The hillside above him collapsed in the pouring rain and sent a piece of heavy equipment careening downhill. It ripped the roof off the man’s backhoe and crushed his chest, killing him instantly.
The dream dissolved into a gray plain very much like the one from my Armero nightmare. There was nothing else around for miles, except the thousands of figures holding candles in mourning. In the background, a distorted church bell rang.
But we were talking about metals, weren’t we? Funny how dark my train of thought can get when its allowed to run away with itself. There were metals in Rainier’s ash layers, and, in short, it’s not a good thing. It’s a warning sign of trouble.
I picked up a lot of things at the university where that lake core research was taking place. This includes a bracelet made by a local artisan who was selling his goods at an art fair on campus. The bracelet has a ring of copper, a ring of silver, and a ring of gold. These are my three favorite metals and I wear the bracelet for my rituals.
I suppose of the three, copper is my top favorite. There are a lot of uses for copper. It’s used in electrical wiring and communications. Some people believe it has healing qualities, though copper is one of those metals you have to watch. Too little copper can make you sick, but so can too much.
This metal comes out reddish-orange. However, its ore is blue-green and it corrodes to green. A lot of those green-roofed old buildings you see are actually built with copper that has corroded over the decades and centuries. It’s a truly fascinating metal.
Then again, all metals have something fascinating about them. Electrum is one of the few natural alloys that occur. Tungsten used to fuel incandescent lightbulbs before society switched to fluorescent and LED bulbs. Cadmium and lithium fuel the batteries of today. There are all sorts of rare earth metals that go into the workings of a cellphone.
Metal is all around us, and some Eastern cultures consider it an element akin to the four elements of European tradition. Modern witches include metals in some of their spell work, especially gold and silver.
Scientists believe that the inner core of the planet is made of iron and nickel, not rock. So really, the heart of the Earth is metal. Our whole magnetic field depends on it.
So let’s offer a brief salute to metal and all it’s done for us. It certainly is an interesting topic to discuss, one I could go on about forever, but I will leave this where it is and ask one final question. What has metal done for you and what weird random thoughts does it spark in your mind?