By Claire Blatchford
The waiting room is full today. I check in with the secretary then slip into the last empty chair between a snoozing white haired man and a young black woman texting hard and fast on her cell phone.
The magazines arranged in even rows on the table reflect the range of ages the dermatologist treats: AARP, Cosmopolitan, Field and Stream, Good Housekeeping, Reader’s Digest, Sports Illustrated, Seventeen. I find myself wondering if Dr. Gordon could read a brief description, a sort of haiku of a person (in a similar way that magazines can be a quick read into one stage or another of life) by looking at a section of skin—anybody's skin, just skin and no more.
Wrinkled, freckled, bumpy in spots but still elastic, certainly well-worn, and, yes, sweetly familiar: I’m suddenly profoundly aware of skin. My skin! Eyes, ears and nose I can, more or less, close or block off. But skin-- even when covered over, my skin is open-- always open-- exposed, alert.
“Overly dry hands, chapped lips, warm chest, itchy spot on the right rear end, cold blast of air from over there, prickly sore on the forehead,” says skin as I reach in my purse for a tube of lotion.
“That ugly sore,” I think in reply. “Will Dr. Gordon dig it out? I’m going to a wedding in two days; I don’t need a bullet-sized hole in the middle of my face.”
“Vain lady!” whispers skin. “Beauty is more than skin deep. Beauty is about the health of the whole. . ..”
As I rub lotion on my hands skin relaxes, becomes softer. I think of the vast memory of touch skin has gathered within me, not only in my hands and feet, kneeling knees, balancing thighs, tender breasts, but in its constant, simple transparency, no matter how tired or worn. I recall pink flush of babies waking from naps as they return from who knows where, dark circles of sleeplessness, yellow of jaundice, white of fear, blue-black rising up my father’s feet from toes to ankles as he began the journey out of his skin.
I recall, not without some embarrassment, how honest skin is, as when I catch sight of someone, someone who “gets under my skin”, and instantly feel squirmy irritation. Or how the heat of anger or annoyance can flood into my cheeks. Heck, will I ever be able to get a handle on that? Will I ever be able to brake a blush?
I recall too, how, when I hear something surprising, shocking, even scary, goose bumps often pop up on my arms before I’ve even processed what I’ve heard. Goose bumps urging, “Hey! Hey! Wake up! Pay attention!” Even when I’m hearing within by way of intuition rather than through my physical ears. Like remembering someone and seconds later that very someone sends an email.
The arm of the elderly man seated on my left bumps against me. Without looking at him I pull away a bit to give him more space as my awareness shifts from skin as open receiver of an endless stream of information from the outer world, to skin as closed, enclosing, definition of me. I am in here in my body. He is in his body. Skin as limit, border, boundary, anchoring me in this physical incarnation. Thank goodness! Aren’t boundaries, in a way, what physical incarnation is all about?
I’m jiggled out of my personal musings as the nurse calls out a name and the man beside me jerks awake, bumping me yet again with his arm, this time a bit harder. I notice then the dark blotches, raised veins, and an ugly red gnash of about three inches on his arm as he staggers to his feet. What a beating his skin has taken--is taking! I’m shocked. I wonder how I missed seeing it.
The young woman to my right stops texting as the white haired man shuffles past. I feel her wondering, as I am, what happened to him. We exchange a look. As I look at her I see the pleasing dark smoothness of her skin. Broken, wounded skin on one side, clear, complete skin on the other. I know my impression of the differences between these two has much to do with outer observation, yet I also know that I do not know-- and likely will never know--the boundaries this young woman may experience on many levels because of the color of her skin.
These thoughts flow past as I sense how the mutual sympathy and concern the young black woman and I share for the elderly man have joined and are accompanying him down the hallway to the doctor. It’s as though, together, we’ve drawn a soft pink bubble around him.
And when he’s gone out of sight, we share a quick smile. Then return to the privacy and comfort of our own thoughts, our own individual skins.
“ What happens in my field also happens in the environmental field, the field of humanity, and the planetary field as a whole. It’s not that some influence from one field travels across some distance or space to impact another field someplace else; it’s that the state of one directly and immediately influences to some extent the state of the other because in mysterious ways, they participate in each other.” —David Spangler, Views from the Borderlands (Year 5, Volume III)
Author's Note: "This experience was inspired by reading David Spangler's latest Views From the Borderland. There he speaks of the many “fields within fields” we live and move in every day, all the time, without being aware of them. As I was bothered right then by the sore on my forehead (which turned out to be no big deal!) I decided to try tuning in to “skin.” And became rather acutely aware not only of my own skin and the skin of others, but the thought that we possess and are constantly moving within and interacting with other, non physical “skins” or “fields” of thought, feeling and energy."
David Spangler's quarterly journal, Views from the Borderland is his personal exploration and perception of the subtle worlds. Click here for more information about it. (Click on either of the links above for an excerpt.)
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