I didn’t sleep well last night but I didn’t expect to either. Then Sam woke up around two wanting out, and honestly, the dog is nearly fourteen, I can get up to let him out if he wants to go. But then Lilith and an Owl got into a shouting match at the back of the property and it was an hour or so before I was back in bed again. Lucas has an odd habit of wanting to get on the bed but he wants me to ask him. He will sit there with his front paws on the edge of the bed, and I can turn off the light and pretend I’m asleep and there he will sit until I invite him up. Now, if Lilith jumps up on the bed Lucas is going to claim his spot before she can, but generally speaking, Lilith waits for Lucas.
It’s an odd thing.
So I get everyone situated and I can’t fall back asleep and Lilith really wants to have a few words with that Owl, and I have to tell her, look, I understand you’re just doing your job but Owls have talons. The people who make words up to use in language invented a whole brand new word to describe those things that Owls are packing at the end of their feet. Don’t mess with them. Owls kill things for a living and even if they don’t kill you it still means a mess. And they don’t taste like chicken. Now, I have no idea what an Owl tastes like but Lilith seems to understand what I am trying to say. She curls up in a ball at Lucas’s feet and falls asleep.
Sam has begun this habit of licking his forearms at night. I have no idea why. I’ve searched for some reason he does this and there just simply isn’t one. But late at night it sounds like I’m in the honeymoon suite with two teenage lesbians.
So every year, on my birthday, I do something I normally would not do. Last year, I was dating someone and we went to a really nice restaurant and I spent more money than I had, but it was well worth it. Every once in while you just have to treat yourself to something different. This year I hadn’t planned anything but I was leaning towards going on a road trip. Okay, I’m fifty-four now, impulse control really shouldn’t be a problem but as I was reading an article on who else was born on this day, and I already knew Anne Sexton was, I ran into this quote:
And I knew I had to have it as my own. At eleven in the morning I decided that I was going to get a tattoo. By three I was on my way home with it on my upper left arm.
Now the place I went was full of young colored people, and by colored I mean colorful, who had odd bits and bobs of metal stuck in their faces and none of them was showing fewer than a half dozen tattoos. Each and every one of these young people a member of a tribe that has had members in it for the last thirty thousand years if not longer. Getting inked is not new to me; I got my first and only one back in 1998. So it has been a while and things have gotten a little better since then. The place was very nice and very clean, but oddly, they only take cash. I had to raid an ATM to get the money for it.
Let’s lay it down. It took me about forty-five minutes to get there. It took another ten to find an ATM and get back. I stood around and waited for another five minutes or so after talking to the guy about what I wanted and where I wanted it. Two or three times this voice inside my head said, “Dude! This is permanent!” and that actually is an argument for getting a tattoo, not against it.
You either believe or you do not, or you’re stuck somewhere in between it all. “I am alone here in my own mind. There is no map and there is no road.”
I really do not think I have heard it said any better than that when it comes to how it feels to have creativity in a world of sameness. It’s hard to express how it feels to those who have never even so much as dipped their toes into the ocean of their own mind. I had this conversation with the tattoo guy and he was on board with the idea that tattoos aren’t some sort of symbolic gesture against authority or anything like that; tattoos are walking, living, breathing creations of art that you never have to worry about losing or having stolen from you. There are permanent examples of your soul on display. Do I worry that one day this quote won’t mean to me what it does at this very moment? No, because at this very moment this is who I am and what I am. If I change it is still a picture of evolution of who I am. It’s important. It means something to me. It’s something that I am willing to carry forever.
What have you, what do you own, that you can say the same about? Is there anything you care about as deeply as this?
There are two kinds of people, inked and plain. Colored and plain. Works of art, walking canvases, visual representations of ideas and philosophy and beauty and abstracts and everything that makes us human beings who we are, that is who we are, and then there are those who simply aren’t.
At age fifty-four I have something to say about who I am and how I feel, and the rest of the world is free to read it and ask about Anne Sexton or they are free to make any judgment they want about who I am.
When you read those two words which side of the sign do you wish you were on?