Long Story Short: Skin deep.

Real books with real pages and stiff covers are still my preference, but electronic readers like Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook have some cool advantages — especially when traveling.
The ability to take a stack of books inside a tiny mechanism that weighs about half a pound is a beautiful thing, but my favorite feature of electronic readers is their built-in dictionary.
Put the cursor on any word and, voila, the definition appears — and learning new words makes me happy. Even at this age, I find that the magic of new words still exists. When I learn a word I didn’t know, I hear it or have opportunities to use it frequently — just like I did when I was a kid.
So last week as I read Alexander McCall Smith’s The Charming Quirks of Others, I was delighted to learn a word that made me want to sing. The word: palimpsest— a manuscript that has been reused one or more times after earlier writing has been erased. Occasionally, the older writing peaks through.
The word is derived from ancient parchments prepared from animal hides. Scribes would scrape off a layer of writing to use the parchment again.
Unlike yesteryear’s animal hides, today’s newsprint wouldn’t hold up to the scraping off of many layers. However, if there was a way to convey the layers of this week’s column — how many times I scraped off words with my cursor and delete button, we would have a virtual palimpsest.
Through 10 years of writing, I’ve learned and re-learned a lot about going about the business of developing a column. I have to remind myself of what W.H. Auden said, “Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.”
For me, creating a column is about getting to that day’s authentic piece of truth — which may or may not be something I want to write about.
My truth today falls into the “may-not-be-something-I-want-to-write-about” category. My reasons are valid. I’m hesitant to reveal what a wuss I really am. Plus, I don’t want to whine or make much ado about very little.
But here’s the truth, the phone call I got from my dermatologist’s office this week would not, in the broad scheme of the medical field, register on the Richter Scale, but it freaked me out a little bit. Someone with a name like Brandy called to tell me that the biopsy they did on the pimple-like blemish on my forehead was, in fact, basal cell carcinoma — the most common type of skin cancer.
In the dermatological world, I sense that basal cell carcinoma registers about as much anxiety as having to wait for an iced tea refill during lunch.
Or maybe less.
But that was before they told me I had it. Which is how it works, isn’t it?
I realize that this type of skin cancer is a minor road bump in life — and I’d be perfectly comfortable exposing that piece of me.
However, if I peel back the layers and reveal my most authentic self, the word cancer scares me silly — and that’s certainly not original, but getting to that truth took some work.

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