Morning songbirds, announcing their joy at the new day; at being alive
Autumn leaves changing the light, washing the world with crimson and gold
Lightning flashing across a springtime sky, stark, bright, dazzling the night, spearing the darkness
Icy winter river in a midwestern forest, unpredictable, clear, edged with feathered lace
Godlight radiating from a sunset over Lake Michigan waves, bright golden flashes of fire on jade green surf
Night sounds of crickets, cicadas, katydids, spring peepers – the chorus of humid darkness
Apples left hanging heavily and lazily, yellow-gold on a gnarly, generous, old, giving tree
North wind, invisible but for the tops of crested waves and the bending dune grass and stinging cold touch
Transparent, glossy wings of the dragonfly, darting across meadow grasses, hungry, seeking
Morning glories, honeysuckle, wisteria, jasmine, gardenia
Elegant simplicity of a fern as it unfurls, pale green, delicate, to awaken and stand upright among others of its kind
Light through deep green sassafras leaves, dappled and alive on the forest floor
Ancient live oaks with spanish moss beards, spreading, reaching and wise, home for countless others
Northern lights, silvery green curtains of surprise and wonder
Ocean spray from Pacific's crystal waters, green sea turtles, coral, tropical fish, singing sands
Milkweed seeds, floating on silky clouds, fearless seekers of the soil, feeders of magic
Adventurous crows, blue black, swaggering, arguing, intelligent, bold
I’m a bit all over the place with this post. Writing reflects that, so it is fitting.
It was just exactly a year ago that I wrote the poem above. As a rule, I hate accrostix poems. More than anything, they show lack of creativity. When second and third graders write poetry, and they discover this form, their previous brilliance goes out the window in favor of writing their friend’s names vertically and a word to describe them horizontally for each letter.
Apples (because she likes apples)
So, exactly a year ago, I ignored my own advice to young writers and wrote an accrostix poem of my own. I thought it was cagey. I thought that if I just put it out there without any other explanation that my few constant readers would read it, appreciate the nature images and go to the next blog on their blog scroll.
It was a weird time for me. It was exactly a year ago that I had surgery to get rid of this bizarre thing that had invaded my body and created its own little bad cell factory, potentially a doomsday mechanism that would spell my demise. And I went there. To the darkest places. Totally. (Play Darth Vader’s Theme here in your head.)
Anniversaries are funny, aren’t they? Birthdays. Deathdays. Weddingdays. 365 and ¼ rotations on our axis. One revolution around our closest star. Exactly one orbit. That’s all it takes to remind us of something and bring it back into close focus. I know a guy whose birthday is also the anniversary of the day his mom died. THAT is a powerful anniversary. So it is my anniversary of my wide excision, my sentinal node biopsy. My bad boob job.
On a related topic, this is the time of year that you hear a lot of (white) people talking about their tan. They want one. They work on it. That healthy glow. That sign that they have been outdoors, relaxing, playing, getting, you know… healthy. A tan is like a status symbol that doesn’t cost anything. Your teeth and eyes just look so much brighter with a tan. Your hair gets more highlights. Your palette changes. Suddenly yellow, which made you look sickly in the wintertime, looks so bright and accents your healthy glow. Guys leave their shirts off. Girls wear shorter shorts. Immediate gratification.
I must liken this situation to cigarette smoking. OK, there might have been some people who really didn’t know that smoking would kill you. Now, I don’t really think there are many folks who don’t know. Yet, look at how many still smoke. Go by teenage hangouts and see how many young people are deliberately getting themselves hooked on something that will most assuredly shorten their lives. Immediate gratification.
So it is with getting that healthy glow. The healthier the glow, the more dangerous in the long run. And we know it. And we keep on doing it to ourselves. Our media hypes the tan ones. A tan line is sexy. Even when we know the dangers of sun exposure, the immediate gratification factor outweighs the dangers. Someday barely exists in our minds.
Surgeon and cancer researcher Adam Riker recently published a paper with his colleagues on the growing dangers from skin cancers like melanoma, which are becoming more common. They write, "Melanoma is the sixth most common fatal malignancy in the United States, responsible for 4% of all cancer deaths and 6 of every 7 skin cancer-related deaths." They estimate that 1 in 5 Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetimes, which means that each year there are at least 1 million new cases in the U.S. alone. Balk adds that nonmelanoma skin cancers basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are also on the rise, with 2 million new cases every year.
So here I am, on my one year anniversary, my single earth-orbit since my surgery. I feel good. Being a pinky, I was never a sun worshipper. Sunburn hurts us pinkies. But I got too much sun in my 53 years. Had I known when I was a kid that all that sun would be harmful, I would have worn a shirt before there were sunscreens, and I would have definitely worn sunscreen more carefully when such things did exist. Had I known that a single bad burn before you are 18 doubles your chance of getting malignant melanoma, I would have been more careful. God only knows haw many bad burns I did get. Once a year? Twice a year? Now I wish I could let my younger self know what was going to happen to me when I reached the ripe old age of 53.