Temperatures have dropped again, and the days and nights are cool. Clouds are parked in the mountains, leaving short-lived snow. It may be spring, but the bathwater’s only warm for a few minutes. There I make note — for the thousandth time — of the way my spine is twisted and the symmetry of my body is gone. Muscles have adapted to the positions of my damaged back, adding their own forces. I think the ankle went first and then each joint upstream, one by one: not so much a failure as a repercussion, echoing. Does any person make it four decades without damage? At some point we stop being surprised by our mortality: this is the only ‘me’ I have. The mess tells a story, written there. Outside, cranes and geese honk on the mudflats, northbound. I imagine their scars and missing feathers, scratched legs, and cracked beaks. Mites. They have come a long way. From here, though, they are beautiful. 

— Jessica Cherry, PhD, is a scientist, writer, and commercial airplane pilot living in Anchorage and Fairbanks

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