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A woman in the sun

Giving My Arms a Breath of Fresh Air

Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” is about threats to the environment, but you can apply some of the lyrics to a range of losses in life. Specifically, I’m thinking of these lines: “Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you’ve got/Till it’s gone.”

Today they came to me regarding the feeling of sun and breeze on bare arms.

Sunny days

Back in the old days of lying in the sun, I let my arms bake until they turned into what I considered a beautiful nut brown. Actually, I am one of those people who fills in “burns first, then tans,” on the dermatology forms, which is worse than “tans first.”

Running and playing tennis in tank top, sitting out as a lifeguard, and wearing sleeveless dresses also contributed to my tan.

That was then, and this is now

A while ago, I gave a friend my sleeveless tennis shirts. I told her those days were over. Now, when exercising outside, I almost always wear long-sleeved shirts, either with or without SPF. I wear a sweater or button-down shirt over my sleeveless dresses.

This is not something to lament like the song’s “paradise paved over to put up a parking lot,” referring to development in Hawaii.

I’m not sad about lacking the perfect tan. I realized, though, a few times when my arms “ended up” in the sun recently, that I failed to appreciate the simple, unencumbered feeling back then. It’s complicated, though, because all those bare-arm days contributed to my history of squamous cell skin cancers.

Packing the right clothes

While packing for a visit to New York, for some reason I put in two pairs of leggings and no long-sleeved shirt. I like to jog around the Central Park Reservoir, which I call my hometown track, so I put on my T-shirt and slathered sunscreen on my arms. I wasn’t going to miss the run just because I didn’t have the right shirt.

The sun and the breeze felt so good on my arms. That’s when I sang those Joni Mitchell lyrics.

Other easy-breezy times

Other times when I let my arms breathe the fresh air included a twilight run near my home in Western Massachusetts. I put on one of the tank tops I wear for yoga and off I went. It was a good time of day to do it because there was hardly any sun. While vacationing on Cape Cod, I felt the breeze lift my button-down shirt off my shoulders. I was wearing the shirt over a sleeveless dress. The shirt fell off my shoulders. I let it fall down over my arms, and then I just took it off and tied it around my waist. It was only for a few blocks so I figured it was OK.

I’m dating myself by saying that at those moments, lyrics from The Who’s Tommy come to mind: “I’m free, I’m free…”

I’m not going to make a habit of it, but from time to time, it feels good to show a little more skin.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.