To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo

harrypottertattooA friend of mine has some amazing body art, some incredibly intricate designs all over her body. In fact, I think the only spots I’ve seen on her that weren’t covered were her neck, her face, and her hands. Every time I see her I study one or more of them and find patterns and designs in them I hadn’t seen before, even though I’ve known her for over three years now. Those tattoos are like a well-worn, dog-eared book. They offer something new on each read. But as much as I value and appreciate her tattoos as statements and as art, I would never get one myself.

I don’t judge. Believe me. I’m just of the opinion that if I don’t need to go through pain for some medical reason, or for some religious revelation that will appear to me at the end, then I’m not going to submit my mind and my body to it. See, every time I know I even have the possibility of going through any physical pain my mind shifts into “fight or flight” mode, and I have to calm it down in order to go through with whatever necessity has been planned.

For example, for each one of my surgeries (I’ve had four) I’ve had to gird my metaphorical armor, and I still had serious nerves right up until showtime. Then afterwards I was the epitome of a big baby, taking all of my pills and bemoaning my fate to anyone who would listen.

So I’m not exactly the best person to get a tattoo. I’ve been to a few tattoo parlors (do they still call them that?) in my day, but I have never looked directly at the needle when it was being done. I’ve held a few hands during the process, and I admire the finished work, but in the end, no matter how much my friends may have cajoled me, and no matter how completely wasted I’ve been at times, I have never given in. And I’m proud of that fact.

Getting a tattoo is an individual decision. It’s a personal choice what you want to do with your body. I honestly think that if someone told me tomorrow that it would never hurt — the process of getting the tattoo, or the pain while it’s healing — maybe I would actually consider it. But I wouldn’t get something ordinary like a heart, or an anchor, or an infinity sign, or a bird, or a cross. Nothing like that. I think I would get the number “27” in the same font J.K. Rowling used for her chapter titles in the Harry Potter books.

But even then I’d probably chicken out in the end. Because who wants a “27” on them forever?


Living Those Moments

wpid-20150728_163559.jpgThere are many things that inspire me, from a gorgeous sunrise, to an exchange with a friend, to a brilliant turn of phrase, to a burst of genuine laughter. But what inspires me the most are those moments of spontaneity that can’t possibly be rehearsed or constructed beforehand, those times that I know can’t possibly be repeated.

I try to live in those moments as much as possible because I know they can be so few and far between, and I know they won’t be back again, not in the same way. Sometimes those moments are captured just as spontaneously by a word, by a phrase, or by a few brushes of paint on paper.

In the moment above I see a dirigible flying northeast out over the water below, with enough fuel to reach the outer edges of the horizon. Or a dark bird contrasted against a blank sky, stretching its wings for the very first time, surprised that it hasn’t already fallen. Or a palm tree in profile, with burgeoning coconuts straining against the branches, threatening to fall. Or a broken halo of a distressed angel, praying for a salvation she used to take for granted.

I live this moment continuously, from every single angle, every time I gaze at this piece of art, and I realize that the explanations are endless, because the moment is endless when I can capture it inside of my lens. These brushstrokes keep breathing even though they are long dried on the page. I really ought to take more photographs, in the hopes that once in a while one of them might turn out like this one, taking the measure of an idea and turning it into a nostalgia worth knowing, and worth living all over again.


Sidewalk Chalk

sidewalk-chalkMy ladies are outside, where they feel at home. I can see them through the living room window enjoying themselves in the dying rays of the Monday afternoon sun. Heidi is raking sand from the edge of the property, left over from the snowplow as it drove through here on autopilot all winter long. Sand and salt, twisted together and left to die in the middle of the snow, settled down in its absence, and finally being raked away. Madeline, the 6-year old, is helping with her own toy rake, but you wouldn’t know it’s a toy by the way she’s wielding it, or by the stern, workaday expression on her little face.

But Alexa… Alexa is kneeling on the path of blocked concrete between the door and the sidewalk, intent on her own masterpiece, her mural of interconnected flowers, ponies, and a bright purple sun shooting rays nearly into the dead grass by the side of the path. She is my artist, and while she’s usually content indoors with paintbrush, marker, pencil, and colored pens, when the weather is nice that’s where she can be found, on that path, creating with those thick pieces of chalk.

I asked her once what she was making out there with her chalk. It was one of the few times I went up close to observe her work, like a man in a zoo trying not to disturb the monkeys for fear that they will get angry. Alexa won’t get angry if I disturb her delicate process, but she sometimes shoots me that look, the one that says, “Artist at work. Come back later.” That’s when I slide to the side, like I’m patiently waiting for my soup, and say no more. But that once when I asked her what she was doing she told me, “Daddy, I’m working here.” And now I can see that.

Because for Alexa utilizing that sidewalk chalk IS working. It’s seeing those possibilities in her mind, mapping it all out, and then reproducing them and hoping for a few days without rain. I told her she should take pictures of her work and share them with her classmates at school, to show them that side of her, that creativity that her work on paper only hints at. Maybe it’s because she knows her concrete art is temporary, that it’s really only for those who walk past and stop to marvel at it. Or perhaps it’s because she wants to keep it as her own personal achievement. But she doesn’t want it photographed. She wants it one place only. Out there.

And I love her for it. Well, I love her for so many things, but that’s one of them, her appreciation of the art form without having to take credit for it, the joy on her face when the job is completed and she moves on to the next square, or the rain finally does come to wash it away. Then on the next nice day she’s at it again, kneeling once again on that solid form, bringing something into existence that was never here before, and letting it breathe.


Daily Prompt: The Artist’s Eye

Bridge by Monet

Art is subjective, and it always has been. Don’t get me wrong, you can look at a piece of art objectively, and I’ve done it many times, but somehow it feels wrong to do that, like I’m denying the power of the art by breaking it down to its essential non-essential elements, like thickness of paint strokes and such.

I took a history of art class once, a long time ago, and I remember the instructor telling us about lines, about perspective, and about artist motivation. Artist motivation! I thought it was funny then and I think it’s even funnier now. Even artists don’t always know what their motivation was for creating a work of art, so why should we, once, twice, or thrice-removed from that artist? I like art because it connects with me on some level, and that’s it. Continue reading “Daily Prompt: The Artist’s Eye”


Birds flying north for the spring
Paused in hypothetical flight
Above vibrant hues of blue
Splashed across life’s canvas
Whirls and whorls spinning faster
Yet as constant as the setting sun
The water calm and inviting
Paint-thin and sliding away
We stand on the edge of the pier
Conscious of the full-stop
Urging it on in whispers and cat-calls
Urgent like the coming rain
Set to the tick-tock of the clock
Fragmented like frames on a reel
Clicking slowly into place
One at a time, in perfect rhythm
But with no rhyme or reason
Constructed solely to please
Weeds overgrown from disuse
Nuance shifting like sands of time
Sound echoing in the distance
Calling out to yesterday
When dreams were new and bulletproof
Yet fragile like glass
The birds move slowly forward
Leaving smudged clouds in their wake
And we walk the other way
Into the future.


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