Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sun Screen

It was warm and humid at the beginning of my shift driving the bus this afternoon. A passenger in a spaghetti-strap top asked, "Aren't you hot in those long sleeves?"

When I began farming, which was also when I began my spiritual journey as a Christian, I wore shorts and T-shirts when it was hot. Or sleeveless dresses. And sandals.

Over time, not for reasons of religious restrictions or modesty, I've come to wear long pants and long sleeve shirts with buttoned collars, 365 days a year. And close-toed shoes, when shoes are appropriate. And a broad-brimmed sun hat.

Long sleeves and pants protect my arms and legs from: flailing chicken feet, thorny raspberry bushes, joyful dog paws, biting mosquitos, scratchy weeds, itchy hay, poking tree branches, rough bark, splintery boards, sharp fence wire, unexpected rain, windblown debris, climbing cat claws.....

But the most important reason for long sleeves in the summer is to avoid exposure to UV radiation...to prevent sunburn. Sunscreen always makes me feel yucky and sticky and hotter than I would feel without it. I don't like the smell, and for the number of hours I spend outside I'd have to apply it several times a day...adding up to quite a bit of time, energy, and money.

Preventing sunburn is important to me, because it's likely that I'll live to a ripe old age. There are a lot of uncertainties, healthwise, that I can't predict and can't prevent. But certainly I can do my part to prevent having to deal with skin cancer somewhere along the way.

I wear my clothing somewhat loose, so it shades me from the sun even if it does hold in a little more heat than less complete covering might. The cooling benefit of the shade is significant, especially from the sun hat. Loose clothing also gives me freedom of movement. I'm mindful, however, that clothing that is too loose can be a hazard, catching on things, or a nuisance, whipping around in the wind.

Natural fibers are cooler than synthetics, so I expect that my long-sleeved polyester uniform shirt will be a bit warmer than I'd like this summer. Cotton and linen are much cooler, and the past couple summers I've been testing a theory I heard in my travels, that mosquitos won't bite through silk (nothing conclusive, but it does seem to help).

So it's really only a coincidence that my attire appears to governed by reasons of conservative Christian modesty....

Nevertheless, I find that the accidental modesty that comes from my chosen way of dressing is not without its blessings. I prefer that people notice me first as a person, not as a physique. I want to be remembered for my kindness, my good nature, my insights....

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