On the way to a dermatology appointment this morning, I drove through Como Park in St. Paul. Right before I got to the lake, the car ahead of me swerved suddenly. As I came up behind that car, I realized the driver was avoiding a dead animal in the road. I looked out my window as I veered around the still mound of black fur, saw the bloody innards squeezed onto the asphalt. It looked like a cat. Its fur was sleek. It shone in the morning light.
Someone, I thought, would be very sad today. The site of what was probably a beloved pet now gone certainly dampened my mood as I drove along in a sunshine-filled morning in which the birds’ songs sounded happy. But there was nothing I could do for that cat. I had other things to pay attention to.
My skin is one of those things. I’m pale. I’ve had one bout of basal cell skin cancer. My dermatologist has me on a regular visit schedule to make sure nothing else develops on my skin. I’m religious about sunscreen, seek the shade whenever possible, avoid the urge to get a tan. I enjoy the sun as something that makes wonderful light in the garden, makes things grow, warms us when it’s cold. And I respect its power to burn me to a crisp.
The appointment went well. No new crusty patches or shifty-looking moles. I got the go-ahead to wait a year to return for another skin check. Relief filled me. I spent a lot of years watching my mother struggle with skin cancer and listening to her fear and disappointment over the small disfigurations she endured with the removal of each new cancerous spot. In her later years, she was afraid to be in the sun. I am not afraid, I like to think; I am proactive about protection so I can be outside. And it’s working.
I took the same route back home. The poor dead cat was still in the road, its fur still sleek. It seemed that everyone who drove that road this morning managed to avoid the cat except for the one who hit it. And I wondered if the driver had been distracted, or if it was the cat that misjudged the speed and distance of an oncoming vehicle in a mad dash to chase after something.
It all comes down to attention. Attention to what crosses our paths, what appears on our bodies, what has been sitting right in front of us all along. If we miss any one thing, it can be a disaster. And yet we are pummeled with things that seek our notice, demand it in some cases. Things slip through our overloaded radars.
Today feels like a day to work offline, leave the television quiet, listen to whatever outside sounds float through the window. I’m narrowing the scope of what comes at me today. My attention is not an infinite resource to be split and split and split. But it is a resource I’d like to use to the best of my ability.