Biff America: The cuts of time
“Damn, Honey Bun, you look like Frankenstein.”
I kept driving, assuming my mate would explain her observation. I hoped there was some clarification, or perhaps even a compliment, hidden in that statement. After all, though no one would call Mary Shelley’s character Frankenstein attractive, he did appear fit and had nice hair.
But with no elucidation forthcoming, and without taking my eyes off the road, I dared to ask, “What about me reminds you of Frankenstein?”
“All those scars on your arms. You look like a patchwork quilt.” I glanced down and could not disagree.
We were heading south through Wyoming; the sun was low in the west and shining through the passenger-side window onto the right side of my torso. For some reason, the lighting, coupled with the coating of dust and pollen from our just-finished bike ride, seemed to emphasize every injury-caused imperfection on my skin. Considered in their entirety, my arms looked like those on a med-school practice cadaver.
Later in the day, after a shower and change of clothing, we sat in lawn chairs, ate and watched the sun drop behind the Snowy Range. Though the lighting wasn’t perfect, I was able to consider more closely the havoc that six decades of sun, fun and falling have wreaked on my hands and arms. To be clear, the same results could be seen on my calves and thighs, but since Ellie was still eating, I kept my pants on.
Even confined to the relatively small palette of my right arm — only one of my five appendages (yes I have five) — it was surprising the toll an uncoordinated life outside could leave in its wake. But I will say most of those skin imperfections were a result of doing something that I enjoyed right up to the point of impact.
I noticed a two-inch-long line, well faded and thin, that I remember getting as a little kid from a nail while climbing through a window in an abandoned building. There is a quarter-size half circle from a few summers ago earned by riding too close to a barbed wire fence. A third was a battle wound suffered in the line of duty when I tripped and fell while carrying a tray of wine glasses when I was a waiter.
I will add, here in the mountains, I am not alone.
Visitors aside, it would be difficult to go to a local coffee shop, gym or event and not see the scars of a life well lived. It amazes me when I travel to places more civilized, and lower in elevation, when I encounter folks my age and older whose bodies are unblemished. That is not to say they are undamaged. What is less obvious, and more damaging, are the scars we all carry that are unseen.
“Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Though some attribute that quote to Plato, he never said that. But he did say a bunch of other smart stuff — check him out. The truth is no one knows who said that, but no truer words have ever been spoken.
Where the mutilations of our skin are mostly a result of passion and play and can fade and even heal, that is not always the case with the scars of our emotions. Now granted, some past pains — broken hearts, petty embarrassments, emotional missteps — fade with time. For instance, I know a guy who gave a speech in front of his entire high school and later discovered his fly was down. Though initially devastated, it was only a few years later when he could laugh about it (OK that was me). But there is no one alive that can escape collecting some internal scrapes and scratches, some more damaging than others.
Those wounds are not so quick to heal. Those are lesions we have to acknowledge in ourselves — how they affect our behavior and attitude even decades later. But more importantly, understand that there are unseen wounds in others that might not be an excuse for bad behavior but are certainly a reason behind it.
But getting back to the surface mutilations that many of us locals carry, some with pride and some not, I find them beautiful. It is those scars that define our lives and reflect our lifestyles. But after saying all that, I will admit in certain times, and in certain lighting, I will slip on a long-sleeve shirt.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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