I have a scar on my right shin. There’s a little inch-long crater that sort of looks like someone scooped out some leg with a tiny, tiny spoon. Next to that are four long, white lines that, if hard-pressed, I will claim were inflicted by a tiger’s claw.

This is a falsehood I employ occasionally to seem bad-ass.

This rather intense-looking scar is actually permanent evidence of a losing battle with a particularly ferocious and antagonistic concrete wall.

It was last year at summer camp. I was the counselor off-duty for morning activities, left with the assignment of ensuring that every camper was at his or her assigned morning activity. It was my job to walk around camp with a radio, checking in with each activity leader and resisting the temptation to push a button and say, “WE’VE GOT A RUNNER. Over.” (Add to this prospect the fact that the name of the camp is actually Roger, and the temptation to use the radio irresponsibly increases ten-fold. Come on. The jokes practically make themselves.)

So, there I was, being generally responsible with the radio. I was on my way from Riflery and Nature Crafts to Survival, using the path behind the Dining Hall affectionately referred to as Sneaky Trail, despite the fact that it would offer almost no cover in any tactical attempt to sneak anywhere. As I approached the building where campers meet to learn about Wilderness Survival Skills, I decided that Sneaky Trail should get a chance to live up to its name. I would sneak up behind the campers. They would never see me coming.

It would be hilarious.

The Trip Shack sits at the base of a steep stony hill. A huge, concrete walls runs from the Trip Shack at the bottom of the hill to the Dining Hall at the top. To the left of the wall, the hill slopes flush with the wall itself. On the right side, the ground inclines at a gentler slope, so the closer you get to the Dining Hall, the further from the ground this wall gets. Essentially, this wall creates a giant triangular cliff.

Sneaky Trail lies on the right side of the drop-off, and because there is some tree cover, I decided to climb over a smallish section of the wall in order to more effectively harness the element of surprise. If, at this point, you do not have a mental concept of the picture I am trying to paint, the situation boils down to this: Lauren tries to climb over one-and-a-half-foot slab of concrete to higher ground. Even more minimalist version: Lauren attempts to climb one stair.

All did not go as planned, however, in the sneaking and stair-stepping, as one of the campers spotted my less-than-covert operation and alerted the others to my presence. Being children at summer camp, free and wild and highly susceptible to group-mind, they all suddenly took what I’m sure was, to them, the most natural course of action. They charged. It felt, to me, a little like that moment in Mulan when all those Huns swarm over the Tung Shao pass like thousands of spiders and Mulan is left standing there with one cannon and, like, six other soldiers. (My friend Jessamyn says that if she were Mulan in that moment, she would have just fallen on her own sword.)

When a large group of human beings rush toward you in unison, the body has an instant fight-or-flight response. I don’t know whether my body’s intention was to fight or flee, but I do know that it suddenly lost the basic ability to take a step on a stair. I apparently misjudged the distance from my foot to my knee and where my foot should have been making contact with the concrete wall, I was suddenly trying to climb with my shin. The body is not designed to work in this way.

The children were deterred in their running by the copious amounts of blood.

My friend Derek, one of the Survival leaders that week, was conversely motivated by my sudden blood-loss to quickly yet casually come to my aid. One of the side-effects of being a camp counselor is that you tend to say a lot of comforting things very loudly in the presence of your campers.

Derek: HAHAHA. HAHA. WHOA THERE, BUDDY. YOU BIT IT PRETTY GOOD. holy cuss, are you okay?!?!?

Me: OHOHOHOHOHO, YOU KNOW ME. I’M SO DARNED CLUMSY. frick. frick, there’s so much blood. HAHAHA. HA. HA.

Derek: WOW. GOOD THING THE NURSE’S CABIN IS SO NEARBY. LUCKY YOU. HA HA. HA. there’s white stuff coming out of your leg. should there be white stuff coming out of your leg?? HA. HAHA.

Me: YEP. YEP. HA. HA. there’s white stuff coming out of my leg. frick. i’m gonna throw up. OH, ISN’T THIS ALL JUST SO SILLY.

Derek: YEP. YEP. WELL, LOOK AT ME. I’M JUST GONNA SUPER CASUALLY LIFT YOU OVER THIS HILL HERE AND WALK YOU OVER TO THE NURSE. IT’S CHILL. I’LL JUST SUPPORT HALF YOUR BODY WEIGHT. WOW, WHAT A FUNNY FUNNY DAY.

Me: YES, HOW FUNNY. FUNNY FUNNY. HAHA. faints.

Okay, so I didn’t actually faint… I’m tougher than that. And while it looked pretty grody, the injury didn’t actually hurt that much. Nurse Crystal patched it up several times and I bled through many a gauze pad, but by the end of the day, campers were no longer interrupting games of Go Fish to say, “Lauren, your shoe is filling with blood.”

And, a year later, I’ve got a wicked scar.

I have another pretty decent scar on my right shin, which I got when I cut myself shaving (nice). There’s a blue dot of graphite imbedded in my right thigh from the time in seventh grade I fell, running down the hall with a pencil. Compared to my left leg, my right leg with all its scars looks like it belongs to a hardened war criminal with great legs.

I have a scar on my right hand from getting a wart removed and a scar on my left hand left by someone else’s fingernail.

So, there they are. My scar stories.

I think scars are the coolest. I found the following quote online while google-searching the term “beast” before writing, in an attempt to keep with this month’s blog theme.

“Scars are but evidence of life… Evidence of choices to be learned from…evidence of wounds…wounds inflicted of mistakes…wounds we choose to allow the healing of.”
– Marcia Lynn McClure, The Whispered Kiss

I’m pretty sure it’s from a romance novel, which weirds me out, but I really like it. And if the cover of The Whispered Kiss has some weekend artist’s representation of a undershirt-less Fabio, so be it.

Because scars are the evidence of life. Cool. Cool cool cool cool. One of my all-time favorite books is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which, to me, is about embracing the pain of life in a refusal to live a meaningless, anesthetized existence.

“But I don’t want comfort.” says one of the characters, “I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

He wants scars.

Scars are evidence. They’re evidence, verification, demonstration, marks signifying that we live and we learn. Scars make us human and scars happen when we choose to allow ourselves to heal.

A lot of things in life can hurt. And they can hurt a lot. Sometimes things don’t hurt as much, but there’s a lot of blood. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt at first, but the bruises show up later. But once we’ve allowed ourselves to heal, once we scar, we’re changed.

And with the changes, we’re left with the stories.

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