Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sea of Unease





























             “This is not good,” I tell my husband. We're in bed. From the house in which we will soon slumber, or try to, we can hear the ocean stirring. It pounds against, and gnaws at, one of the most exquisite islands in the Atlantic. I have been searching for suspicious moles, moles that eat away bodies, since the morning of my physical. I've stretched out my naked right arm and, with my iPhone, taken a picture of what I consider to be a particularly suspect mole, centered, and burrowed deeply along the outer ridge of my armpit, and I am comparing it to the onerous looking moles of the online medical journals that I’ve culled from the Internet with my laptop. Mine is an old, curmudgeon of a mole. At one time it was a pageant-worthy beauty mark, whether adorned by a simple black camisole or a paisley silk sheath. It was a freckle at birth.

Now, it is swelled in various shades above the skin where it meets a charbroiled crescendo; it seems as maddened as a volcano on the verge of blowing, like the sick, angry moles I see on the vast Internet: multilayered and gibbous, some with dry, crusty patches, areas that look like burnt chicken skin, or tiny clusters of flying fish roe. I am jumping from website-to-website for evidence that will justify my fears, and with each hit my anxiety balloons. I see more: cancerous black lesions with uneven borders, red and blue-gray blemishes that indicate malignancy. The photos I’ve taken just won’t do so I tuck my head into my armpit, even though it’s nearly impossible for me to get a decent view of the mole from this angle (or any angle for that matter), and stretch the skin around the dark nub. Michael pulls his book away from his face and gives me a look. What am I doing? I know that he thinks I’m loopy. But this doesn’t prevent me from searching, armpit and Internet, even as I become aware of the increasing anxiety that will keep me from a solid night’s sleep.

“This is bad,” I say to Michael, as if he has not heard my first complaint. “Does this not look like melanoma to you? And why is my doctor concerned about this one?” I point to the dark nebula. “This one looks like all the others. Should I be worried about the others?”

I know Michael wants to say, Yes, you should be worried about the others, just as you worry about everything else. Yes, worry, dammit! Worry and then shut up. But he doesn't say this. He tells me simply to have it removed when we return home. We are on vacation, after all. But I take Worry with me wherever I go.

Instantly I want to shout, Easy for you to say, you're not the one with all the raging moles! Instead I say nothing and he tells me to stop reading about melanoma. I think about my father, my brother-in-law, and one of my closest friends, all of whom I’d lost to cancer in short time. I think about my sister whom had layers of squamous cell carcinoma shaved off her nose. She is in the clear now. It was just last September when my now annoyed and fatigued husband spent three hours on the operating table having his prostate removed. (How in the world could I have wished to utter, Easy for you to say?) Cancer. I’ve become hyper-vigilant. It is quiet, quiet, and we can hear the sea, in and out, and the constant wind gusts, and we can smell the mist from the ocean that comes up in squalls, over the dunes, into the hollow and through the house. We are on the eastern side of the island and the beach is a walk away over the dunes. A large, gentle pond sits on the other side of the sandy, rosa rugosa-lined path that divides house from water. I could be anywhere, though. Anywhere, and I would still tend to Worry.

Earlier in the day, we had taken the high-speed ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket with our two teens. We’d come to visit and relax with my in-laws who own a small home in Quidnet. My father-in-law met us at the wharf where the ferry pulls in. It’s a lovely area of the harbor, trimmed with grey wooden docks, shingled structures and bricked and cobblestoned roads which spill into the island’s historic downtown, where, by way of special zoning bylaws, no large restaurant franchise or retail chain can be found with the exception of a Ralph Lauren store, which Lauren acquired at a cost of more than six million dollars prior to the passing of the bylaw. It all seems so quaint and pristine, so very removed from the rest of the world and all its commercial trappings and corruption. Madras-clad, Sperry-footed people strolling the streets, no hurry, no worry, no mission other than to pass the moment blithely. During one of our previous trips to Nantucket I had read that the island’s early settlers, the Wampanaug Indians, referred to this golden bib of land as a Place of Peace, or in their own language, canopache. To the native peoples, this island was also removed from the world, a faraway place, and so they named it Nantucket, meaning, in their native tongue, faraway land. And it occurs to me now, as I stretch out my armpit mole that the only thing that seems faraway to me is my ability to relax.

We loaded our bags in my father-in-law’s black Range Rover and he drove us out beyond the slick cobblestone, alongside lush, undulating pastures, and pretty ponds dotting the salty landscape, east, down Polpice Road and out to Quidnet, where we quickly changed into our bathing suits and charged back out to the island’s south side, to the narrow strand of beach known as Nobadeer.

But even on Nobadeer’s ribbon of packed, turbinado sugar-like sand that falls out into the wide-open Atlantic, into the blue, blue horizon, I was too anxious to relax.  On the shore I wondered how this fine-grained land must have looked when it first rose from thawing ice sheets, when it was nothing but sandur, an outwash plain from Earth’s last glacial period, separated from Cape Cod’s mainland by the icy retreat; how pristine it must have been! Pristine it still is, in many ways, and even more so during the off seasons, fall through spring, when the island’s population is one-fifth of what it is during the summertime.

Yet, it is not entirely unsullied. It overpopulates in the summer months, especially during the time when we are here—the days that flank both sides of the 4th of July—with a noticeable accrual of noise and litter, especially downtown. This summer, it may be even more populated due, in part, to being recently named the best island in the world by National Geographic. But even with its quaint village, and remarkable landscape, its dramatic drops from highland to sea, it’s hard to imagine that Nantucket would be more beautiful than, say, Bora Bora (though I’ve never been to a land that faraway).
Just above Nobadeer’s dunes is Nantucket Memorial Airport, and early afternoon during the week of July 4th planes descended above heads every ten minutes or so. Later afternoon, the same planes took off with such reverberating thrust that we could not hear one another speak across a beach blanket.

On this island, a place where money is no object, where waterfront is often reserved for the rich, I peered out at the sea before me, at the narrow shoreline, at Max and Lulu on their boogie boards searching for the big wave to Bliss, and then turned back behind me to view the shedding dunes that make clear this earth is still undergoing a glacial warming. Nobadeer slowly erodes, I am told, by ten feet per year—which, to me, hardly seems slow. What was once a wide swath of silky sand is now this narrow strip of beachfront. One can still maneuver a car along the edge of the sandy fraying ribbon just above the high water mark, but it is tricky and, at times, hazardous. There are no lifeguards, no restrooms, nor any facilities, for that matter, at Nobadeer. Summer residents drive out to the beach in SUVs or Jeeps packed with provisions for the day. They open the backs of their vehicles, tailgate style, set up tents and tables and large, colorful beach umbrellas, and spread their feast across the sea-green tablecloth.

Nantucket style—as if there were never meant to be a care in the world.

I sat in a canvas chair by the water at low tide until tall, foamy swells began to wash in and overtake my canvas nest, and observed the busy airport. How long would it be before the constant process of the wearing away of expensive soil and pebble cut into the airport proper and all the turbinado sugar washed out to sea? It appeared that there was hardly a hundred yards from rolling tide to runway. Let's see, ten feet per year, a hundred yards, in roughly thirty years there would be no more fine dining at Nobadeer.

Already, a good portion of Nantucket's seashore had been closed to protect the nesting piping plovers, so access to the ocean was restricted. If you are on Nantucket in the summertime you may not be happy about this, especially if you’re a big beachgoer and the island is swollen with company. Or, you may be elated and thankful for the efforts of conservationists. I was happy that we’d found a beach where the piping plovers do not nest, where we could gather with our hosts and new friends, and watch the children surf and in the rough littoral, and literal, tumble of the breakers, and rake up smooth, white shells. This was a place where the sun stayed pasted in the sky all day and I could simply be there, without obligation, except to sit in a low chair, half-way under a beach umbrella, book bag at my side, consuming food and drink enough to last us a week. Soon, though—maybe it was the pulsing heat—my attention to the distance from shore to airstrip, the sloughing of the beach and dunes, and the private jets and puddle jumpers descending above our sunburnt heads faded, and in a seamless shift I found myself hyper-focused on the itchy, dry, raised mole perched at the nape of my right armpit, above the grooves and swells of axillary folds; it was the nub that was sure to keep me from vacationing. Had it changed over the years? I wasn’t sure. Why didn't I know this? The more I inspected it, the more uglier, angrier looking, it grew. This was not the mole that my general practitioner tapped with her index finger and insisted—as she did the day before we left for Nantucket—must come out. That mole, what she called “irritated and suspicious looking,” floats atop the soft, creamy skin of my upper abdomen and is part of a constellation of small, chocolaty moles that, together, if closely observed, resemble the inverse image of the Little Dipper. That little nebula hardly looks suspect to me.

“She’s wrong about this,” I say to Michael. I’m irritated. “The sick one, the angry one is this one!” I shove my iPhone before his face so he can bear witness to the gruesome, pixelated details of my monster mole, the one that’s infiltrated my body.

“You’ve got to stop thinking like this,” he sighs. “Let’s get some sleep, please.”

The ocean stirs a savory potion, and I want to gulp it down, I want it to magically quell my nerves, to melt the stone in my chest, to make worries go Poof! But I torment myself with Worry into the wee hours before I'm finally lulled to a half-sleep by the salty elixir.

It is like this for the next week. We are on Nantucket, then the Cape. The mole stays angry, I double up on sunblock and get little sleep. A rock stays lodged in my chest. I know it's bad. I wonder if my GP should be the one to disturb the suspicious mole and the hostile armpit mole; mining them from my body. (Where are all the mined moles stored?) There had been a prior excavation—neighboring moles had merged just above the belly button. Moles that merge are always suspect and they are excised with little inquest. In the case of my conjoined moles, former constituents of the abdominal constellation, a half-inch core of skin, fat and tissue to which the moles were attached was cut out with a sharp knife by a Boston dermatologist, who dropped the gory specimen in a liquid preservative housed in a glass jar and jiggled it before me, like I was a spectator at an old wild west hanging. I later learned that the procedure was unnecessary as the mole cluster was determined to be benign. Yet, I was glad for the news, even the cutting, despite the fact that now set at a 45 degree angle a few inches above my navel is a one-inch scar that looks like the fossil of a centipede. I do not wish to have my torso marred by ghostly arthropods.

But I worry.

I say nothing to anyone but my poor, patient husband. I am disgusted with myself. I should be happy, carefree, grateful for the opportunity to be vacationing with Michael’s extended family, all of whom generously host our Cape Cod and Island excursions (of which, otherwise, we couldn’t afford). I resolve to find easy moments with family, and I do: warm, sea-salty moments that are sprinkled, no, flooded with lively, fresh seafood dinners, quiet walks on the bay, excited faces on the little Boston Whaler that takes us out to the little barrier island of Sandy Neck. I am able to shave layers of weighty anguish off the rock. The sky is blue, the weather temperate, and in the late evening the empyrean vault sparkles with amazing firework. All is well until I go to bed. There, I tell myself I am eroding. Like Nantucket’s ecosystem, my body is bearing its fragility. I am aging, deteriorating, and well, something is bound to go seriously wrong with this body. Can't we reasonably expect this?

Back home, where there is no ocean to see or smell for miles, I unpack my suitcase and empty the contents of my book bag. Tucked inside the bag's zippered pocket I find two well-preserved seashells that I'd plucked from the shoreline of Nobadeer. They are large, beautiful shells that look like marble or limestone spiral igloos, not the common mermaid's slipper found on Nantucket's beaches. These shells had once protected muculent inhabitants: snails of deep water—the moon snail. He burrows, too, into mud bottoms, searches for prey, clasps a clam with his gelatinous foot and bores a hole through his prey’s armor with his toothy, chitinous tongue, an acid-tipped killer drill. Even soldier crabs run from the moon snail.

But the shells’ inhabitants are gone, dead, their flesh devoured by other sea creatures, their armament souvenirs. Nothing is immune. I place them on my writing desk.

Monday morning I call my dermatologist's office and beg for an immediate appointment. I have a seething mole, I tell the receptionist. The offender should be extracted at once. I have another, less benign looking mole that my GP, with whom I don’t agree, wants removed from its cosmic configuration. The receptionist slides me into an 8:30 a.m. opening on Tuesday. She'd prefer, I'm quite certain, to slide me into a psychiatrist's schedule. I would not argue this. I try to remember when I'd last seen my dermatologist (or psychiatrist). Why had she not noticed the armpit mole? Or had she?

It was this time last year, late July, early August, that I observed my children digging trenches in tidal flats at the tip of Sandy Neck—a Cape Cod barrier beach—constructing hermit crab hotels designed for the protection of vulnerable crustaceans. This, they did, despite the shifting tide which would soon send these crabs scattering beyond the hotel, abandoning their fabricated home. They knew then, too, that as the crabs grew larger, they would eventually toss their borrowed shells in search of roomier ones. The borrowed and discarded shells were small, tiny snail shells, not at all like the heavy shells of deep seas (yet, as my moon snail shells reveal, weighty armor does not insure defense). Watching the kids attempting to offer the crabs a safe harbor reminded me that they would soon shed their own shells. It could be this very summer. Soon, they’ll traverse a world foreign and potentially dangerous, treading further into the deep sea. To where will they retract when threatened? Do they possess the moon snail’s killer instinct? Should they be fearful? Do they sense my fear? I try, I try hard, to keep Worry at bay. I wish them not to be frightened, only aware.

Tuesday morning Dr. Kirk circles the innocent abdominal speckle with a purple indelible marker, writes "2 x 3" above it and takes a photo. She does the same with another in the constellation. With her magnifier, she zooms in on the mad, bulging blot
that now spits from the ridge at the nape of my armpit. This one looks...hmm, she says, as the magnifier scans the surrounding skin, fine. Given my skin's pigmentation, she explains to me.

It is as if she has waved smelling salts beneath my nose. Fine? Fine! I breathe again. I am lucky. (But acutely aware that luck is the card not dealt to all, reserved for no one, and the game invariably changes, so I do not apologize for being an alarmist. I have lost my father, my dear brother-in-law, and one of my closest friends to cancer, all within short time.) Nevertheless, I explain, I would like it removed before it is un-fine. It has been bothersome and prone to snags. This is fine, too, she tells me, but today is not her surgery day.

The others, she points out, are on watch. Should these change, darken, enlarge, action will be necessary. In three months I will return to her office. It will mark one full year from my first skin scan. (Skinscan, I later discover, is an Apple application for the monitoring and analysis of moles. I don’t download the app.) At that time, and though she thinks it’s harmless, Dr. Kirk will remove the underarm mole at my command, along with another mole she’s deemed odd; she’ll hew them down like cleaved trees that do not bear good fruit, slicing them from where they’re rooted with a hand-held straight edge blade. Later she’ll tell me that the mole that kept me up for nights on end is normal. No sign of cancer. The other odd one, she’ll say, is atypical, which means I’m oddly fine for the time being.

“The internet is the worst thing to ever happen to doctors,” she tells me.

“And to patients,” I concur.

I thank Dr. Kirk for her support. I call my GP and cancel the procedure. The rock in my chest is a pebble, my face pink with embarrassment. Unlike the moon snail, I have no knack for slaying. Beneath my pale outer covering is only accumulated fear and worry. It feels counterintuitive, yet I know I must do this, I clearly sense it, I must shed fears, let them loose in my Sea of Unease, expose this timorous being to the elements, the rough seas, the cold winds atop ice-capped mountains, or to things like jets and puddle jumpers that I no longer board, or zip lines, any lines, the aging lines, rimples and knots of my body, all conditions approached with trepidation. Yet, the instinct is to flee.

Here is the rub. I cannot flee. Can anyone? Not even to faraway lands or islands where money is no object. It’s futile. Danger and risk are not unique to the mainland. I can only be aware. Watch the coastline and all things that sail on the horizon, listen to the ebb and flow of its waters and their simple message. Don’t make more of it. You just get in the current and float—you’ll drift right back in round the other side, I was told just days prior, as I stood on the beach of Sandy Neck’s duck-bill tip, fretting about my flimsy aquatic abilities. “Oh, yes, it looks so easy,” I’d replied, while surveying the cold current running a hook around the shoreline. And as I gazed out as a crow flies, into the bay’s channel, drifting peacefully in the horseshoe flow were my two children and Michael, coasting along, round to the other side.

57 comments:

  1. Oh, moles. I know moles. I cant tell you how many I have had removed. Actually I'm ok with moles as long as they stay flush with the surface of my skin. When they decide to start sticking up, off they go. That reminds me, I should call the dermatologist. But worry? A useless emotion.

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    1. "Flush," Ellen, is my comfort zone, too. Once raised, I fear they start to take on a life of their own, which may include questionable plans. Worry is a useless emotion. So bad for us. I work diligently on toning it down, but I'm not always so successful in entirely quieting it.

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  2. I laughed to tears reading your comment - "Where are all the mined moles stored?" LOL! Yeah, I've had a few "raging" moles too.

    I love the Atlantic coast! I've been to Nantucket, and spent a summer at Cape Hatteras, NC. Nothing beats the sound of the pounding Atlantic Ocean surf.

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    1. Where are they stored, Loree?! I imagine this dank stockroom filled with racks lined with ghoulish looking moles preserved in Ball jars. I know there's one out there!

      Oh, that ocean. Such beauty. This is the summer of the ocean for me. Been a long time since I'd spent this much time on the beach. There'll be more days of chairs in the sand, too. And lots of 70+ sunblock in my bag. I'm getting it all in this summer, because I know my son will likely be working next summer, and family days by the sea will suddenly be quite limited. ;)

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  3. How to be less involved with our own breath, our skin, our fears? Continually taking our metaphoric pulse, vigilant for the slightest sign of anomaly. The internet is - fact - the worst thing to happen to innocent medical inquiries. I will never look again for side effects and other things that, once upon a time, lurked under the bed but now jump out at us from Google searches. A quiet mind is powerful medicine, as I keep reminding myself. Be well and peace-filled. xo

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    1. Ha, Marylinn, I told my doc that I am aware of the fact that I've become too preoccupied with my health. She said she's noticed a direct correlation between her patients anxiety level and the ever evolving internet. So true in my case. Those of us prone to hysteria should not spend time trolling the internet for medical information.

      Quiet mind. I'm working on that, dear Marylinn. :)

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  4. Hi Jayne: Well, I think you are right to take good care. Phoenix has to be the world's capital for skin cancer. I use a 50 spf with a long sleeve shirt--it's that intense. I wish you wellness. And your writing is brilliant. It flows as smooth as pond water! It rocks! :)

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    1. This is why I'll never live in Phoenix, Michael. ;)

      Really, if I were that worried about skin cancer I suppose I would seriously curb my trips to the beach and my strolls in the sun. But protecting ourselves is key. We can't hide in a box and watch the world go by because we're worried that we'll catch something--or that something will catch us. Yet, yet.... oh I've got to let these worries go!

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  5. Once a year i trek into the dermatologists office, i've had my fair share of moles removed, i believe it was Tyler Durden who said on a long enough timeline the survival rate is zero, why worry, it's coming someday we just hope not today and since it's not coming today we might as well enjoy it until we hear the knock...

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    1. Maybe I should make like Marla and find myself some good xanax? Survival rate is zero. I love that Tyler Durden quote. Enjoy it, I know, don't fight it. I just don't trust the docs. One says take it out, the other says leave it alone. I'm not sure of how to increase the odds of a healthy timeline. I'm guessing taking the damn things out, though, has got to help in some way (if only to ease this churning, mad mind).

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  6. Glad to see you blogging such thoughtful posts :)

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    1. Glad to see you stopping by, Kid. ;)

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  7. Jayne.

    I am 'dying' to have something of substance to say in response to this post--a more thorough self-examination than one any doctor could ever perform. I'll try this.

    For some, death comes in an instant. And then they 'go' to wherever it is we 'go' when death 'comes.' For others, not only anxiety but a long, low-grade agony are the constant companion on the inexorable march. That anxiety is seeded first in the brain--and then the heart and mind and gut and field of life--much in the same way smoking is. We become addicted, in a very stripped sense.

    I'm glad you have a husband to lie next to at night, as you endure pounding by both sea and unease. I drive my man a little batty in the same way with my own ancestral loops--those that have been with me as long as my blood has rushed. (Longer?)

    Is it any comfort, dear friend, to know that you are not alone in your 'fixations?' I don't know. I certainly am not going to make the eyes in your head roll back with some ridiculous attempt at counsel and resolution. You write to resolve in your own way. (And quite well, I might add.)

    I've read your words and find myself wishing that neither mole nor shell will steal from you the sunblind joy of weightlessness.

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    1. "I'll try this." Suze, my dear, it's almost as if you don't need to try, the way words emanate from your essence, it occurs so naturally.

      What I feel in the heart, but more often in the gut, is definitely low-grade anxiety, which, given the proper attention, can easily consume my mind, my heart. Agony is just behind the door, a door I am most certainly addicted to opening, albeit slowly, with caution. This particular hum I was born with, no doubt. And maybe it is also tied to one of those ancestral loops from which we so often try to sever. I'm afraid I haven't done a good enough job, though. I see it in my daughter, I do what I can to lighten the world for her. I wonder if females, in particular, are predisposed...

      Not that I wish anyone to join me in my imprudent consumption of Worry, but, as they say, misery does love company. Heh. But I'm going to continue to do my best to take my queue from the kids, and those hermit crabs. ;)

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    2. Came back to read your response. Just wanted you to know. Looking forward to your next post, Jayne.

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  8. Your post hit home in two ways. Last night I watched a documentary on rising sea levels and climate change and coast erosion and much mention was made of the east coast of your continent. Not good news.
    And this morning I waited with a friend for her biopsy results of a small mole. And the news were good.
    It know it sounds farfetched, but there is a connection, everything is connected.

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    1. Sabine- I'm happy to hear the news was positive for your friend. I've little doubt about those connections. This is not at all a stretch for me. I really should take to my bike more often, like you, get some fresh air, and remind myself that all of life's a circle. :)

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  9. Jayne, leave it to you to write a post about fear, mortality, and death and have it sound etherial and lovely.

    I feel bad that you had such a scare, and feel even worse knowing that this won't be the end of it. You will have scare upon scare, as the beaches erode, and the planes fly overhead. And while your chewing your nails down to the cuticles remember that we are all visiting the very same beach, and noticing the same sugar shrinkage.

    As Chicken Little would say, "The sky is falling!" Yup. And there ain't a damn thing we can do about it.

    Let's raise our glasses. Shall we?

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    1. On Nantucket, Leah, everything is etherial and lovely. It does tend to stay with you. :)

      Thanks for your sweet words. Unlike worry, I think being scared, or fearful, is a useful emotion. It tends to provoke action, whereas worry eats us away as efficiently and relentlessly as erosion does a dune. I guess all we can do is just enjoy the beach while it's still a beach.

      Chicken Little- Ha! Raise 'em high, Leah! Clink.

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  10. beaches eroding, worst drought in half a century, ice caps melting and the depleting ozone letting us get bombarded by cancer causing rays. it seems to me that these should be important election issues but pettiness and name calling seem to take center stage in the 21st century.

    a very good friend of mine developed cancerous melanoma and went through a few years of hell on earth before succumbing to the inevitable. you're right to keep a close watch on those little devils.

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    1. Sheesh, BP, we are in trouble aren't we? Perhaps Chicken Little's observation is spot on: the sky really is falling. I shall continue to keep my eye on the ball, er, the mole, er, the sun, the clouds... ;)

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  11. I feel like Suze, I wish I had something of substance to say. You've created a beautiful, poignant metaphor here-well done.

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    1. Tim- Thanks for that. Life is beautiful, eh. Even when we worry it's beautiful. The trick is to be able to really, heartily, laugh about it. :)

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  12. I love this post. I never used to worry about all the things that can go wrong with my body, but last week, the nurse who took blood for my checkup used a band-aid that, apparently, was not latex-free. I still have the rash, and I have diagnosed myself with several different life-threatening illnesses. Thank you, Google Images.

    It's good to read your voice, Jayne!

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    1. Dang Nessa, you never know what the hell can happen, do you? Latex bothers me, too. There was a time when it didn't. Now we have to worry about what might bother us in the future. I know people who've developed all kinds of late-onset allergies. Am I going to have to worry about biting into a strawberry, going into anaphylactic shock?

      I thought Google was our friend. :-/

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  13. Ha - well you'll love this. I had a bumpy mole taken off of my shoulder blade out of paranoia and because it bugged my bra strap. Then? It grew back. But this time, ugly and weird - like a massive scar rather than a cute li'l bump. Oy. :)

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    1. Oh, that is just the pits! In my case, the return of that monster would literally be the pits! I am going to have to consult w/my dermatologist regarding stubborn monsters.

      Oy is right. Watch that guy. (But don't obsess!) ;)

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  14. This is a great piece and I love how it flows...eeep, changing or 'angry' moles are the bread n butter of Oz dermatologists due to our crazy rates of skin cancer...i betcha they could make a mountain out of a (mole)hill if for some reason they collected the ones they sloughed away...
    but in all seriousness watch those ornery critters :)

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    1. Moles as bread and butter of dermatologists is sort of a ghastly image, Dan! Funny, "mountain out of a (mole)hill" is precisely what I did while on vacation. Yet... one never knows... on watch I'll be. It's wise for all of us. ;)

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  15. Down with violent moles! The annoying buggers.

    Awesome post, Jayne. :)

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    1. Buggers they are, Lydia! Nice to hear from you. :)

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  16. Your writing is wonderful. And I LOVE that you take your time and give me something that takes time to read. Where would we be if we could not have humor amidst the terrors and troubles? I'd be dead in the water. Thank you for commenting on my blog--it brought me here.

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    1. Jeannette- And I thank you for taking your time to read this. I get a little nervous when I post something a bit lengthy. You know, like, who has the time to read this? But enjoy a meaty read myself and I know I can't be alone in that.

      Yes, humor is key to keeping our sense about things. ;)

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  17. I've spent only a week on Nantucket, 20-30 years ago at that, and barely got out of the town -- not a beach person AT ALL -- but loved loved loved it.

    Over the years, I've sometimes wondered about that word, mole. I don't know if the two main senses are related (the skin "feature" and the burrowing creature), and have never looked up the etymology, partially because I'd, well, rather speculate. But in this case -- in this case, in this classic Jayne piece -- you've made the association unavoidable. Your mole was there, all right: tunneling through your consciousness, leaving a faint bumpy trail through the everyday, weakening what lay underfoot and threatening to topple you as you crossed the lawn... even though you couldn't actually see the little devil. No wonder he made you crazy.

    So glad for the "Fine," you know.

    (Speaking of moles -- the living-breathing-burrowing kind -- I've got a book rec for you: Duncton Wood, by William Horwood. It's out of print but really, it will reward hunting down somewhere. If you can't find a copy I'll send you mine. A seemingly loopy premise (a love/adventure/epic-good-vs-epic-evil novel starring... moles?!?), but oh my do I ever think you'll like it.)

    Oh, and I guess you can take for granted all the usual noise from this quarter about your talent for finding worlds in grains of sand and making the rest of us see them, too. In prose that elicits shivers of pleasure and envy, in about equal measure. :)

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    1. If given the choice, JES, to travel to, say, a large European city (or even countryside)--or just about any city for that matter--or a tropical island, I would choose the more urban experience. Although, I do consider myself a beach person in that I love the ocean, walking along the shore, lingering beachside--so long as there's an umbrella overhead. We're fortunate to have family in Nantucket and on the Cape with whom we can visit and get in our beach time. And Nantucket, well, that Island is pretty special. Beach or no beach. Have you seen the Nantucket documentary on PBS? Just watched it the other night. It was good but short--I wanted more information!

      Moles! Ha-funny, when I started this piece I thought, also, about the etymology of mole. Wiki lists plenty. Include the Spanish spicy sort of mole, and the unit of measurement. (Oh, how I could get seriously sidetracked by various kinds of moles). Certainly, the mole brought to mind the nocturnal mammal, and even the spy, the one who works in darkness. Either way, I think you've got something there: mole as creature feature. Sounds, too, a bit like a thriller.

      Searched Duncton Wood and found sources for ordering the book. Horwood later turned this into a six book fantasy series. Sounds quite interesting. Thanks so much for the recommendation. Might do me some good to read about a love affair between moles. ;)

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    2. so long as there's an umbrella overhead

      Haha, right. I'm a beach person after sunset. :)

      Saw that you provided a link below to an abbreviated version of the Nantucket doc. Off to view. Thank you!

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    3. Oh, meant to leave that for you, too, JES! Glad you caught it. :)

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  18. Jayne- Great writing. I shared your anxiety as I was reading. Erosion. Forces of nature. It's been going on for a long time. Some times I think stuff is out of our control. I like the proactive approach. The Big C reared it's ugly head in our family 21 years ago.It took out my Dad and both of Jerilyn's parents. It has made me aware. Aware of what is important to me and to not take things for granted. Not in a copout way, just kind of chilling and appreciating.

    Jerilyn was a mother's helper on the island when she was a kid. She keeps telling me she has to take me there. I get nervous going over the bridge in Portsmouth.

    I'm glad everything turned out well.

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    1. Scott- A very long time! Yes, I think that there's an awful lot out of our control (no matter how proactive we are) which can easily be the source of our anxieties. But watching, being proactive definitely gives us the sense of having some control, of hopefully nipping catastrophe in the bud. How we all wish the Big C were a shriveling lower case by now. I too lost my dad to cancer. And one of my best friends, and my dear brother-in-law, who was a very close friend. I know what you mean about awareness in a kind of chilling and appreciative sense.

      That must have been quite an experience for Jerilyn on Nantucket. She'd probably enjoy the Nantucket documentary, too. And you must give in and go to this island (it won't be there forever, you know?)! It really is breathtaking scenery. Piscataqua? Pshaw. That's our favorite bridge--crossing it on the northern side means we've reached our lovely Maine hideaway! (Well, still a few hours up the road.) :)

      The short film version of Nantucket can be found here.

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  19. this crowd has already said everything worth saying, my dear, and articulately, too. worlds in grains of sand. exactly! this is a wonderful piece of writing. i can only add the following:

    yikes! tents and tables and umbrellas. perhaps a string quartet, too? sounds like an african safari going on down there.

    ah, erosion and deterioration.....aren't we all just struggling to hang on to a few more grains of sand, huh, jayne?

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    1. Ha! m- a string quartet would have been lovely. It is a bit of a safari, but it's actually pretty laid back. At least on the beach. And yes, hanging on--clinging! Still, no matter how good a grip I may have, my hand is a sieve through which those grains scatter. ;-/

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  20. Well, I just don't know what to say! All I can think is that you were cheated out of your vacation. What an awful scare to have to live with while away, under the sun no less, where you should have been entirely worry and stress free. I'm relieved to read that the reality of it was better than your imagination of it. I tend to handle these things about the same way as you did.
    I went to Nantucket a very long time ago, maybe 1982. I remember that it was quaint and beautiful. Of course I was so young back then and completely ignorant about skin cancer. Invincible. Not any more...

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    1. Leonora- In a way, I suppose I was cheated out of my vacation. But I've only myself to blame for that. I am still learning how to mitigate circumstances like this. First rule--never see the doc before vacation.

      Nantucket is still quaint and beautiful, though, the 4th of July is what the locals call "spring break." But it's hardly the spring breaks of Ft. Lauderdale that I remember! Invincible is euphoric feeling. But better to be grounded--even if that means aging. ;)

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  21. This, I understand. I'm a worrier by nature and I work hard to keep mine in check. My success mileage varies. Living in the moment is a wise concept. I'm glad your fears were allayed. Beautifully written, Jayne. I love how everything tied in with one another. Everything is connected.

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    1. Ah Hilary, I probably shouldn't feel a sense of relief and joy that I'm not the only one in the worry club--but I do! Heh. Living in the moment takes real discipline. I'm working on that. If only I could let go of those heavy moments--at least while I'm on vacation. Sheesh. No more doc visits before traveling--unless I need shots.

      Connected indeed. :)

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  22. I make it a point to avoid looking up medical things on the internet. As my oncologist once put it, "Yes, I know what you mean. The information there is so 'diffuse.'" He is a fine and sensible doctor, and the master of graceful understatement in the bargain. Your Doctor Kirk seems made of the same cloth. Trust in a trustworthy MD, and, when on vacation, go in to complete denial. That's my motto.

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    1. Diffuse, Sue, is really a good way of framing it. One thing invariably leads us to another and we don't know when to stop paddling the canoe. Good to have a fine and sensible physician. I like to think that the majority of them are fine and sensible but sometimes I wonder...

      Best argument for complete denial yet. ;)

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  23. this is ethereally beautiful, jayne - this seamless, barefoot beachwalk between the turbinado sugar sands of nantucket and the probing depths of terror that our thoughtforms, amply armed with internet ammo, can stir up in the sands of our mind. you have eloquently integrated the excavation of shells, plovers, moles, and fears.

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    1. You know, Amanda, the fact that you're an archeologist makes this comment all the more delightful. You understand excavation at many different levels. I am fascinated by all sorts of excavations, including the psychological. Kind of makes me want to get beyond the paper, grab a pick and get out there for some field work. ;)

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  24. The turbinado beach drew me in, but the worry made me stay. I am terrified of skin cancer. I live in such a sunny clime. I have a mole that was removed, but the skin is recoloring and puckering. Every doctor tells me "that's alright", but then I have friends, family and strangers freaking me out by regularly pointing at it and saying, "That doesn't look so good. You'd better have it checked". What can we do? You're right about luck being reserved for no one. As KIng Solomon said, "Time and chance happen to us all."

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    1. Hillary- I'm right there with you. I think it's important to find doctors whom we trust and with whom we're comfortable. And then, we must also stay vigilant about our health, be our own best advocate. So long as we do both, and take good care of ourselves, odds of time and chance happening don't change, but hopefully they're a bit more forgiving. ;)

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  25. I love the way you tuck a proclivity for worry into your beautiful description of the beach. Having been an intense maniacal worrier for years, I've finally found a trick that helps to stop the chatter. I just read a book called "My Stroke of Insight" written by a neurologist who had a stroke and she talks about how the circuits of our minds work. Essentially, when our brain is engaged in a worry loop all we have to do is say "stop" with meaning. Of course, I find myself yelling stop at myself repetitively but it actually started working when I stopped yelling and consolingly said "stop".

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    1. Ru- I have not heard of My Stroke of Insight, so thank you, kindly, for the introduction. Say "stop" with meaning. Sounds sensible but makes me laugh--a recent incident comes to mind: me on a rather rambunctious horse, riding a trail, trying to keep the palomino on course with tender kicks and quick pulls of the reins. He'd have none of it. We dropped off the trail and he went into full gallop towards a filly. I shouted "WHOA" a dozen times, with meaning and kicked hard to no avail. Now I understand the problem: I was just yelling, I wasn't consoling the horse! (I guess I'm not a compassionate rider.) Maybe I should give it another go, eh? ;) And read the book, too. :)

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  26. beautiful. don't make more of the message and keep an eye on the shore. a mantra i shall chant in my sleep. if i sleep. when i sleep.

    sherry

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    1. Sherry- Ha! if i sleep. when i sleep. Oh, how I relate. I'll keep chanting if you keep chanting. ;)

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  27. Jayne, what an extremely well written and thoughtful post. Love how you tied it all together!

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    1. Thanks, Bill. Hope you're enjoying your vacation... I need to catch up with you (and others!)--my vacation has been rather extended this summer--I'm not quite ready to go home! (Even if I happen to be here today. ;))

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