Friday, May 01, 2009

There's not a whole lot of difference in the atomic weight of lead and gold, which explains why it is that I can't be quite sure yet which one of them has slipped inside the lining of my pockets. It's possible that I might not find out until the lead settles in my bones. Maybe I only think that my footsteps weigh a thousand pounds, but then maybe they actually do.

There's this toxic pit in Montana, the Berkeley Pit, that was abandoned by a copper mining outfit and slowly filled with water, leaching all the minerals and metals out of the rocks, becoming sterile and dead and full of heavy metal poisons. No one thought that anything could ever live there again, that it was too acidic for even the most basic forms of life.

But one day someone found a bit of slime floating on the surface, slime made up of protozoa that had decided to take up the challenge. They used the sunlight to turn the water around them livable, increasing the oxygen under the surface and making the metals oxidize, eating all of the lead and keeping it under their own skin. And when they die they sink to the bottom, little envelopes of lead, leaving sludge easily scooped up and mined for the useful leftover metals.

Given time, and a little sunshine, these tiny little organisms might just save the unsaveable.

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