I came late into the Tribe, and then only by baby steps. My first tattoo celebrated a new life with a new partner; it was a small Hopi bird-and-feather design culled from a book of Southwestern Indian designs. A year later, at the same place, my now husband and I got matching crescent designs from the same book. Small, discrete, but meaningful. Several years after that, to mark a move to a new job, a new beginning, a friend (lsaboe
) drew me a cool abstract piece for my leg.
A few years later, I celebrated another chapter in my life with a traditional Chinese cut-paper bat; the occasion was earning my first degree black belt. I continued what had clearly become a totem arm with a Celtic double-headed snake armband (OUCH!!!!!) drawn by another dojang friend and celebrating my second dan.
After that, I sort of knew that the animal totems needed to rest a while. A couple of years went by before the impulse built up again to mark life events in ink. This time I moved to the opposite leg and had a tree-of-life -- connecting heaven and earth -- drawn around my friend's abstract piece. That was another martial arts celebration as well, but also represented at least the beginning of my maturation into my own best instructor, rather than as "grasshopper" to my teacher.
It really wasn't until that piece that I fully connected my tattoos with important life events and made the event, rather than the art, central to the process. I realized that connection even more fully after my mother passed away. With some of the money from her estate, I realized a long ambition and traveled to Minneapolis, where a martial arts friend and fabulous tattooist has her studio (http://www.tatusbykore.com/
). There, we talked about the meaning of the time I spent with Mom in her last months, and the healing we did. The result is a horse/wave/spiral design that still has people stopping me on the streets.
Last month, we finally sold Mom's house (always "Mom's house", even though Dad lived there too for the last 3 months of his life). It was our last connection to our parents, and marked the end of an important time for me and my sisters. And the beginning of a new one, we hope, as we make time to come together as family on our own, without the ties of parents and family business. So clearly, it was also time for some new work. Kore' and I had long discussed creating a design that would tie all of my totem animals together. I also wanted something that celebrated endings and beginnings. I hit on the idea of a trumpet vine, one of my favorite flowers. We could show it in all phases, from buds to flowers to young fruits to empty seed pods, with lots of beautiful leaves twining around the existing designs. The snake could be winding around its base and the bat and bird flying through the tendrils.
So that's what we did. Here are some pictures. I think it's pretty magical, myself.