A good friend mentioned to me yesterday that she’d heard about a scientist who celebrated his age each year by celebrating the element whose atomic number matched his age. I love this idea! So for the next year, I’m going to celebrate the unique characteristics of Samarium, my Birthday Element. I’ve spent time this afternoon researching our shared identities.
For those familiar with the Periodic Table of the Elements, Samarium is a rare earth metal in the Lanthanoid group, or period six. For those who are not, it’s in the sixth row of the chart, which means it has six energy levels. We have both attracted a good many energy levels, my Birthday Element and I—and I think the more life we experience, the more energy we attract.
As far as physical characteristics, Samarium has a bright silver luster, and is reasonably stable in air. While bright and shiny silver are certainly attractive qualities in some respects, I spend a lot of time and money denying my silver side, so I’ll let that similarity meet up with me in another energy level or so. I’m not sure what to make of the rare bit, but earth metals are nothing if not down-to-earth, and that certainly describes me. As for the stable part . . . well, there is a qualifier there. I’m at least reasonably stable.
Samarium was discovered by a Frenchman in 1879, occurring in the mineral Samarskite, which was named for a Russian of the same name. So maybe we share some international roots. I’ve got a lot of German in my background, but there might be a little French or Russian thrown in there somewhere.
According to my favorite interactive online Periodic Table, Web Elements, Samarium is difficult to isolate from the minerals it occurs with naturally. Does that mean that it hates being alone? If so, this is where we differ markedly, as I prize time alone to think, read, and reflect. Some might say too much time, but the introvert in me demands it.
Maybe the most inspiring quality of my Birthday Element is its resistance to melting. Its melting point is 1072 degrees Celsius, and that’s a great deal of heat indeed. I don’t know if I can withstand that level of heat exactly, but I’ve endured class sessions in which not a single student volunteered to engage in a discussion topic. I’ve called parents to explain why their child is failing my class and have been accused of being too harsh or too demanding or both. I spent several weeks last year filling in for my principal as school disciplinarian, administrator, and public relations director all at the same time. I do know a little something about heat.
This year I will celebrate my Birthday Element, because I think we share some fine qualities. For this year, I will be Samarium. How about you? Which element are you?