Rain. Constant. Rivers in the street and the trees all lit like fire.
This morning right before I went to work, I went down to the yard to feed the chicken ladies and my girls were all in the yard. Frolicking. Hopping onto brick edging and making mad dashes through Olive’s bee balm. Shiny watched with all seriousness from her post at the top of the stairs. Under, my little black and white dream dog, stood at their fringes, curious and bewildered, maybe a little protective. I fed them, propped open the door to Hand of God, (Untitled) and went to work.
They were in and out all day. The cats were in the garden, on the porch. Even the killers, Pepper and Little, known to be skilled and cunning destroyers of such large game as full-grown crows, adult male squirrels, a bat, and a brown rat the size of a gosh darn kitten.
But, all the chicken ladies were fine. The cats were unexcited.
St. Francis himself would have been moved by the benevolence of my animal family today.
Earlier this evening, I was sitting on the porch, in this very spot, emailing myself, as I am now, and I heard someone playing the most wonderful ragtime gospel piano. On a real piano. I could tell by the way the sound carried through the still-raining rain.
I got to do my favorite water quality test. Dissolved Oxygen. The old fashioned chemical one. Here’s a copy of the steps. What these enchantingly scientific directions don’t tell you is that the precipitate flock is the most beautiful chemical reaction I’ve ever seen. 8 drops of Manganous Sulfate into pure water. First a swirl and then an amber cloud, not a haze, a cloud. Thick and separate in surface from the surrounding sample water until it is mixed by inversion into a wave, a blur. 8 Drops of Alkaline Potassium Iodide Azide (lovely, lovely, words – these names)
The blur begins to change. It branches and speckles, concentration of precipitate and of deep amber gold form synapses, autumn leaves, pure poetry of image. You want to look at it for a little longer, a whole afternoon.
But, the test must go on. You kill the flock with 64% Sulfuric Acid solution, the nebula in a bottle is just amber liquid that is then measured into the tiniest of beakers, a Beatrix Potter size beaker, and a small cap is snapped into place.
The syringe might make it all seem dangerous, if it wasn’t capped by a pink plastic cake-decorating type tip. A tiny cake decorating tool, for little rabbits who quit med school to become bakers.
The air is flicked out, patiently, mindfully. As if the smallest of bubbles in this cartoon apparatus syringe of sodium thiosulfate may cause someones heart to explode, a fatal blip in the oxygen supply to their brain.
And you insert the cake decorater into Beatrix Potters titration tube, through a just right sized hole in the tiny beaker’s diaphragm.
And you add the sodium thiosulfate. One. Drop. At. A. Time.
And you watch your favorite amber flinch and fade in spreading swirls. And you wait until it looks “very pale yellow.”
Truly, that is what official test instructions indicate as the correct time to stop adding Sodium Thiosulfate. “very pale yellow” – whatever that is. Next time I’m going to be a whole lot less careful about those air bubbles.
And when have added drop after drop and considered, really, what is “very pale yellow” (a beautiful thing to consider in spite of it’s non-scientific lack of specificity) —
You stop. Because, really who the hell knows, this’ll do.
And the Starch Indicator (need to find out what that is, don’t I?) forms a heavy blue swirl and an ocean is born. In the tiny beaker of B. Potter, who I now want to be but don’t really want to be because I find myself more entertaining than a woman I’ve never met, whose been dead a hundred years. We do, admittedly, have similar interests. We would have had fun. God, what a tangent.
At this point the magic wears off and you are ready for the test to be finished. The blue is nice, but the excitement of the precipitate settling below the shoulder of the bottle has worn off.
You insert the syringe, you depress the plunger. The lake fades, drop by drop. At the precise moment that the lake is gone, the water is pure clear, that it all seemed like magic…you stop.
And the number of cc’s left in the cake decorator is ppm of Dissolved Oxygen in the sample.
Brilliant ending. Never see it coming.
This test is bulky, toxic, labor intensive and has a high degree of risk in regard to subjective inaccuracy.
A digital meter is far superior for data. But, the old chemical test simply due to the elemental constraints of the substances needed to determine the information the test was designed to determined. The test was not designed to be beautiful. It just so happens to be because if you expose —to water it forms a precipitate, which is then dissolved by a highly corrosive 64% Sulfuric Acid solution. When you add the Sodium thiosulfate, you affect the concentration of molecular structures that form elements having properties that give them a lovely autumnal light. The more you depress the plunger, the more the light will fade, becoming a very pale yellow. (Elliot Smith, had he only discovered science.)
Then blue. Then gone. A green plastic number on a plastic syringe. You write it down.
It is a lovely process. Stunning and complicated and antiquated. But full of wonder. Which is what science is all about, isn’t it?
I am certain there is wonder to be found in musing about just how in the heck a digital meter measures something so elusive as the air in rushing stream water.
But then I wouldn’t get to say things like precipitate flock settling below the shoulder of the bottle.
I love today and, I, Faith Rachel Rhyne, Love Science. It is an honor to accept this gift certificate award for winning the essay contest. Thank You, Principal Universe.
I drew these brains, but I didn’t finish them. They look like placentas. But, really, everything looks the same. brainplacentawalnuttesticlegarbanzobeannasturtiumseed…it’s a mode of packaging, two ovoid halves.