A Tattoo of Memories

Seven hours of pain later, I have a new tattoo.

Black and white sketch drawing of a writer's compass
Image created via Midjourney

A few months ago, I began to envision a new tattoo.

Last year, I had a tattoo added to the back upper part of my arm. It was a map of Norwich, circa 1300. Julian of Norwich lived there during that time and she is the author of the earliest surviving English language works by a woman. Black Death hit the city during her lifetime and she lived in permanent seclusion as an anchoress in her cell, attached to St. Julian's Church.

Around the front of my arm, I had the words "quocunque jeceris stabit" added. It's the motto of the Isle of Man, a Latin phrase meaning "wherever you throw it, it shall stand." Together, the map and the phrase were my pandemic tattoo: a tribute to the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic and surviving the impacts on my mental health, my family, my career, and the world.

But, while the map's outline was meaningful to me, as a tattoo it had an odd look. I decided to cover it and expand the story on my arm to include other images that are meaningful to me.

Front of tattoo

In the front, is a writer's compass. I used an image created via Midjourney (AI) as inspiration, but the artist came up with the design. It represents finding my path as a writer.

On the side is a large butterfly, honoring my SHARE community, a support group for parents that have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. The SHARE group often uses butterflies to represent all babies gone too soon.

Back of tattoo

On the back is a seashell, covering the map linework from my prior tattoo. The seashell still represents my pandemic experience, when I felt like a shell of the person I normally am.

Above the seashell is a moon. Our three cats are named Midna (the Twilight Princess – from a video game), Luna Lovegood, and Phoebe (a name derived from Greek mythology, a Titan associated with prophecy and the moon). With three cat names all tied in some way to the moon, I wanted a moon image.

Under the arm

Underneath my arm is a portion of artwork done by my aunt. She gave me the picture for either my high school or college graduation and the name of the piece is "I must take another nap." As a tattoo, it's a reminder to always rest.

Below the artwork is a turtle, based on a carving of a turtle that belonged to my grandparents. My grandma knew someone who could do wood carvings and she traded him a carving for some weavings that she did. I vividly remember the turtle's place in my grandparents' home and it traveled with them to an assisted living facility (both grandparents) and finally a memory care unit (my grandma). I have photos of my oldest son holding the carved turtle as a toddler. When my grandma passed away in December 2020, the carved turtle was the one thing I wanted from her possessions. It's now in our home, and the tattoo is a tribute to her life.

The artist added some leaves and vine work around the tattoo to complement an existing tattoo I have on my forearm. The entire thing took seven hours over two sessions, with a month between each session. So it's been a long process, with a three-month wait to even get an appointment with the artist and then weeks of healing.

But I'm so happy with the result. I've come a long way since my first tattoo, honoring Nelle and Iris, back in 2016.

You can support my work as a writer by buying me a coffee.