Friday, July 6, 2012

Arms... and the Right to Bare Them

Bare-ing Arms
Crepe Paper? Where’s the Party?
On My Upper Arms . . .

Crepe paper is for parties, so why is a party happening on my arms? I shouldn’t have been surprised when I looked in the mirror recently and spied some dreaded crepe paper skin. Well, I wasn’t surprised. I was dismayed. Isn’t it enough that my near-sixty body has protruding veins, horrid age spots, and so many broken capillaries on my thighs that they look like Manhattan street maps? The list could go on, and it does: glasses that get more powerful with each visit to the optician, hot flashes, moodiness, and forgetfulness. To top it off, I also have what I call "Michael Jackson disease"—vitiligo—so white spots dot the parts of my body that don’t have brown (horrid) age spots.
I suppose I should be grateful my upper arms don’t flap in the breeze. And, I am. Years of yoga and before that, years of schlepping babies and toddlers mean that despite what my nay-saying bench-pressing son believes, my arms do have the teeniest bit of definition.
However, the crepe-paper look is not one I want to cultivate in the climate in which I live. Florida starts getting toasty in April, morphs into hot in May, and then stays at so-hot-I-can’t-stand-it from June through mid-September.
Floridians keep cool by wearing as little clothing as basic decency permits. Maybe not all Floridians adhere to that standard, but I do. Being self-employed means I can skip office casual and go straight to summer-work-inside-my-home casual: flip-flops, shorts, and tank tops.
Tank tops do not cover arms. Baring my arms that recent morning, the light shone just right—and I saw crepe-paper lines, scrunched-up skin. My first impulse was to grab a long-sleeved shirt and to hide my arms, like I hide other less-attractive features, but it’s July. Crepe-paper skin isn’t something I want to advertise, but there it was, and I will not wear long sleeves in July, August, and September, and maybe not even in October. The tank tops stay on and I’ll just have to bare arms.

What to do? Crepe paper is for parties, so why not throw a party for my arms? What will my arms and I celebrate? We’ll celebrate the following:
  1. ·      Sixty years of balancing me and directing my hands
  2. ·      Carrying five babies, toddlers, and small children
  3. ·      Hugging. My arms have given, and received, thousands of hugs.
  4. ·      Cooking. My arms have made thousands of meals; my hands helped, of      course, but would be useless without my arms.
  5. ·      Planting flowers, food, and herbs
  6. ·      Dispensing medicine as well as treats
  7. ·      Carrying thousands of bags of groceries
  8. ·      Waving to loved ones: hello and sometimes goodbye
  9. ·      Years of yoga, mountain pose, warrior, child pose
  10. ·      Driving—thousands of miles
  11. ·      Carrying towels, sunscreen, and drinks onto the beach
  12. ·      Reaching
  13. ·      Holding a loved one, even past the toddler stage
  14. ·      Leaning, falling, and helping me to stand again

If every eye wrinkle comes from a crinkled smile, then I suppose I can celebrate my arm wrinkles in all their crepe-paper party finery. I can celebrate where those wrinkles came from and look forward to celebrating and welcoming more of them. Bare these arms? You bet! They deserve it!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ashes, Ashes: They All Fall Down

Ashes Wednesday, July 4th
Wildfires, Vulnerability, and Gratitude

Fire! Four fires sprung up west and south of my house on Tuesday and Wednesday. I saw them burning hot in the distance, red flaring through the clouds of smoke that darkened the late-afternoon skies. Rainy season brought an abundance of the wet stuff a few weeks ago. Since then, the skies, although resounding with startling thunder the last several afternoons, have yet to loosen rainy season’s balm of cool moisture into the earth in my part of Florida.
Late yesterday afternoon, we saw three fires in the distance. Five miles or so due west, one brought smoke into my yard. More disturbing was the ash falling snow-like from the sky. But as soon as the once-gray flakes landed, they announced their lack of moisture and dusted the driveway with soot. We watched the flakes tumble to the ground, and after studying them, noted they were only ash, blown the intervening miles by an east-moving wind. None were hot.
Even so, I didn’t feel safe. In fact, I felt vulnerable, being aware of the fire devastation in Colorado the last month.
I imagined puny efforts on my part if the ash had been hot. What could I do? Would I stand in my yard wetting everything down with a garden hose? In the face of a threatening fire, I knew I would feel helpless, as so many have in the past and likely will in the future.
I cannot compare anything I felt watching that ash fall down with anything felt by people whose lives have been consumed by fire or flood, hurricane or tornado. I’ve been spared Nature’s wrath for the most part, although my life has been touched by other disasters and fraught with other challenges.
I watched the three fires burn. I touched the ash. The ash turned to soot. I again noted the distance, that my loved ones and I were, indeed, safe and secure, at least on that day, at that time. I felt the simple emotion of gratitude.


Early this morning, smoke and low visibility from one still-smoldering fire caused the Florida Highway Patrol to close I-95 from Route 60 in Vero Beach to Route 512 in Sebastian/Fellsmere. During my daily walk, a bright-red helicopter—looking much like a dragonfly in the distance—circled the fire area south of me. Although small and somewhat contained, the fire continues to burn, but the highway is open, and I hope this afternoon’s clouds will not be from smoke, but for rain.