Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Stories of Scars

We've all got scars; even the most precious princesses have marks on their knees from falling over as kids, it's just that some of us carry a few more than others. And they all tell stories.

I was listening to one of the brilliant Dirtbag Diaries podcasts a few weeks back and it was all about scars. As I drove down the coast road to work with it playing through my earphones I started to take note of the backs of my hands and wrists - right in front of my eyes on the steering wheel: A long white line across the back of my right hand from a run-in with a grill (I once tried telling somebody that I got scratched by a tiger at the zoo), a thin slice down one finger from an Indonesian reef, three gnarled knuckles thanks to the bricks at Jeffreys Bay, the tip of a finger sliced around removing aluminium swarf from a lathe and countless chill-blain puckerings from surf coaching under a hot sun in a cold ocean. No particularly remarkable or unusual ones really, everybody'll have their own versions. Some people I know have scars that define them, with full-on stories to go with them that they're continually having to tell to curious new acquaintances.

I bring this up not because of any sort of machismo, I don't want to start a pissing contest comparing scars (I wouldn't do so well if I did). But I like the fact that they all have stories, and I love the constant reminder of how incredible our bodies are at repairing themselves.
Tattoos can be bought and I'm all for art on skin but most tattoos don't carry the same stories that scars do. You don't choose your scars or where they go but they're there for the duration all the same. In Indonesia the brown scars that surfers gain from brushes with the sharp coral reef and subsequent cleaning with iodine are nicknamed "Kerrang tattoos" after the Bahasa Indonesian for coral.

Cut deep enough and some serious repair is required. Blood clots and fibroblast sets to work, synthesising collagen fibres which cross link (rather than align as it does in the rest of our skin) and when the scab falls away after 3-4 weeks we have a fresh patch of skin. But not proper skin...just a patch up job which won't grow hair or sweat, and won't stretch to accomodate our growing bodies.

A reminder not to do that again because it hurt.

A battle badge.

Have a look at the backs of your hands, or your knees, elbows, anywhere. Take a look at some of those marks and recall how you got them. Some may have painful memories attached, but I'll bet that a few take you back to a good time or place and a pretty good story.

Top Image: Matt's a climber, and his knuckles have bore the consequences. Shot in Southern Spain, February 2011 on a climbing trip with his brother Sam Wheadon who's a pro-shutterbug.

Bottom Image: My shoes by me, but they don't look like this any more...years of walking barefoot, rock hopping and reef scrapes have resulted in some lasting marks but I wouldn't have it any other way.

If you're passing through Falmouth, Cornwall, over April then swing by the fantastic JAM records coffee shop and record store. Sip a latte, flick through the incredible music in the racks, and cast your eyes over all the photography that I've thrown up on their wall. It'll be up until the end of April.

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