My Last Transition Metal for a While

The end of this month, I’ll turn 48. Inspired by Oliver Sacks, I looked up 48 on my Periodic Table of Elements place mat and found that Cadmium is element 48. It is a Transition Metal, the last I’ll experience for a while. Next up is Indium, which is grouped under “Other Metals,” (so no telling what that’ll be like), and then a couple of Nonmetals, and then, at age 54, a noble gas! Xenon. That’s something to look forward to.

More about Cadmium, from a lovely blog called GrrlScientist, which has an “element of the week” feature:

  • It’s highly toxic.
  • Used in nuclear reactors.

Cadmium also “adds fatigue resistance to many solders,” which I mis-read first as “adds fatigue resistance to many soldiers.” In any case, fatigue-resistance sounds lovely. Just what I need.

It can make strong batteries and then pollute the environment.

It makes pretty colors.

This post on cadmium yellow says that “Claude Monet (1840-1926) liked to use cadmium yellow for outdoor settings in paintings such as Autumn at Argenteuil, as he believed it would better guarantee the survival of his art. For this reason he abandoned chrome yellow pigments (with the exception of zinc chromate yellow) in the latter part of his career.”

Cadmium green, meanwhile, shows up online as all the shades of green I’ve been obsessed with lately. I may have to go to an art store soon just to get a tube of Winsor & Newton:


So, other than being toxic and all, 48 should be an interesting year.

If you haven’t yet, you should read “The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.)” in which Oliver Sacks points out that his upcoming birthday, 80, is Mercury on the Periodic Table (I don’t know if he has the table on a place mat or not). It’s a lovely piece, with several notable moments. My favorite is this:

“At nearly 80, with a scattering of medical and surgical problems, none disabling, I feel glad to be alive — ‘I’m glad I’m not dead!’ sometimes bursts out of me when the weather is perfect. (This is in contrast to a story I heard from a friend who, walking with Samuel Beckett in Paris on a perfect spring morning, said to him, ‘Doesn’t a day like this make you glad to be alive?’ to which Beckett answered, ‘I wouldn’t go as far as that.’)”

I have elements of both those sentiments. Sometimes I do feel “every day is a gift,” but some days, I admit, the gift feels like a total white elephant.

Here’s hoping 48 is more Sacks than Beckett. In most ways.

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