Gross Anatomy

When you give someone a handheld digital microscope, one of the first things they do is look at the back of their hand. I've seen it happen hundreds of times. So for this post, I thought it was about time to get up-close and personal with one the of the Celestron Microscopes I have been using. This might get ugly, people. But it's definitely going to be cool, gross and interesting. All at the same time.

I started with the back of my hand. It's pretty tame. Your regular cross-hatching in the skin.


I moved on to my fingernails and cuticle. I was actually a little scared about this as I've never been one to take care of my nails. I study critters that live in the dirt! I make no excuses. But it turns out that these looked better than I thought.


Then the scary part. My face. The first picture below is of a freckle. My mom used to call them beauty marks. So much for that.  When you look at my face, the mark looks perfectly round. But under the microscope you can see the melanin patterning is not symmetrical.


The second? The pores on my nose. Sebaceous glands are cooooool. They are small glands that secrete a waxy, oily substance called sebum on the skin. I'm trying to put a positive spin on this because the picture is gross.


I moved onto my teeth and tongue.


After a short break, brought on by a sudden overwhlemed-ness at looking at myself so closely, I decided to look at my hair. The darker hair on the left of the picture below is on my scalp. The hair on the right is the ends of my hair and has more light tones because of my time in the sun over the summer.


Then I got interested in my eyelashes.


One thing I learned from this picture is that I need to do a better job of removing my brown mascara. At this point I was starting to second guess this little exercise in vulnerability.

Eyeballs, anyone? Eyeball veins? Let's do this.


Now that I was into it I decided to look at something on my body that causes me a bit of grief and shame. In 2007, my appendix ruptured and I have a wicked 7-inch vertical scar on my belly. (During the operation they took my intestines out and WASHED THEM IN A PAN.) So I took a picture of my regular belly skin first.


And then my scar, which is about a quarter of an inch wide. 


You can see that the skin is stretched and smooth. Usually, in terms of skin, that's what you're looking for. But in this case, my scar is anything but beautiful to me. I'm grateful to have it- because it means I'm alive and well, but it is also a reminder that I was very, very ill and almost died.

That's the interesting thing about this exercise. Looking closely at the not-so-pretty parts of me doesn't have to change how I see myself on the whole. If we all zoomed in far enough we would see that we are all the same- a mishmash of colors, shapes and patterns. Some ugly, some beautiful. And all of them very, very interesting.