Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tattoo You

I got my one and only tattoo for my 35th birthday. And I started writing in earnest. Coincidence?

Cin, the desert mystic in Edges,  has tattoos of animals all over her body, totems that help with her "lucid dreaming". She sees them as her spirit guides in a very real way.

As a child, instead of imaginary friends, I had imaginary animals. (We had real animals, yes - I grew up with two cats and two dogs, but I had a penchant for frogs and tigers too.)

After having my second child, my "me" time was taken up by a vigorous yoga and meditation practice. I was ecstatic about motherhood, yet personally I felt ungrounded. I had been a therapist of some sort for six years before having kids. Would I go back? Who was I? And what was I doing with my life? How was I going to contribute to the world?

If you read this blog or you've read my book, you already know that I have a keen interest in the mystical, in altered perceptions. So it won't come as a shock to you that a tiger started visiting me during sivasana (corpse pose) at the end of sweaty yoga classes. Will it surprise you that he told me his name was Solomon, that he was my protector and that I'd better take myself seriously as a writer or he would kick my ass?

Solomon visited me after every yoga class for months. He was the one who put the idea in my head to get a tattoo of HIM. I had always wanted one, but never found a symbol that I wanted on my body forever. This is serious stuff. My husband has two on his back, and my BFF has one on her back and one on her ankle. My dear friend who is both a Wiccan and an Interfaith Minister has many all over her body. (I'll call her DF)

I needed to incorporate the spirit of the tiger into my being. On my birthday, my BFF and my DF took me to the home of a woman tattoo artist in Jersey City, and we created Solomon together. I told the artist about him as she sketched him. (Not TOO intimidating, not TOO fierce). We lit candles and Ohmmmed like good yogis, and my DF drummed, while my BFF squeezed my hand. It was painful yes, but a beautiful experience, almost like giving birth to another part of myself.

I wrote, I doubted, and Solomon pushed against me. I still write, and I still doubt, but I have the sense memory of that push. That's right -  Solomon rarely comes unbidden anymore. And I forget about my tattoo - after all, I can't see it. But since when is seeing believing, hmmm?

Do any of you have tattoos, or stories about tattoos? Does the whole idea turn your stomach? Are you fascinated, but haven't found the right totem?

And I can't end this post without a shout out to Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones for the title of this post. Their album, Tattoo You, came out when I was in 8th grade, of which I was a proud owner.
Cover of Cover of Tattoo You

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  1. Aren't you the little badass?! I say this with amazing love, affection, and awe of course!

    Cin was my favorite character in the book! I loved them all dearly, but something about Cin really resonated with me. :)

    Personally I'm fascinated by tattoos. I don't have one, mainly because I haven't found a totem I want to have for the rest of my life. Not yet anyway. ;)

  2. Hi Lucy!

    Thanks for reading and your comment! (I was wondering if this post was too out there - a little too TMI!)

    Cin has to have her own book, I think.

    Maybe you'll find a totem at 35 too!


  3. Me + needles = no go

    I've never had my ears pierced--can't even WATCH someone put in earrings.

    It wasn't until motherhood that I could watch a blood draw--something that my special needs son was having done every 2 months for 7 years. (It took my about two years to be able to watch it.)

    But I still can't watch them stick a needle in me.

    I declined epidurals--being induced all three times and having the IV was horrific enough.

    Always wonder about the tatto culture, though. Can't help but think of the faded, wrinkled tattoos on the arms of old military veterans.
    Are the tattoos of today a better quality than they were 50 years ago?
    Will they blur into a smudgy reminder of youth?
    Or does the hard life/sun damage/etc take its toll on the the ink as well as the skin?
    What will the mega-inked look like in thirty years?

    So me with a tattoo is NOT going to happen, though I do turn 35 in a few months...

    Your story is awesome, though.

  4. I have an image of you with your hands up and backing away . . . exactly how I feel about needles too! That's why getting this tattoo felt like such an initiation and will be my ONE and ONLY . . . I don't wear earrings either and nurses can never find my veins when they need to draw blood so THAT's always fun . . . NOT!

    But I love body art, and I am always so curious about why people do what they do - tattoos are so mainstream now and I wonder if they have strong symbolic meaning for everyone. A friend of mine says that body art for him is like a map of his life - who and where he was at different points. I find that fascinating!

  5. Blue rose on my left hip, a 25th birthday present to myself over 25 years ago when getting a tat wasn't as commonplace as it is now. It still looks good, even though I kid that when I got it, it was a bud and now it's in full bloom!

  6. Stacy - you just made me giggle with delight!

  7. I've never really wanted a tattoo. The thought of it being there forever deters me, even though I think some of them are cool. But maybe a small, meaningful one next year for my 35th? I doubt it.

  8. I also do not have a tattoo. But I have totems. When I was ten I got really sick and had to stay in bed for three years. It was a pretty dark time during some formative years. During that time I was watched over by men and angels, and . . . a bear. That is why reading 'Edges' was so profound for me. I even had a kachina doll that my great grandparents had picked up in the Southern Utah desert. During those years I wore a little stone bear on a leather necklace that I found in Jackson Hole, Wy.

    Health has been a wary visitor since then. I am a big believer in whole body wellness and have had some amazing introspective adventures trying to discover what my body is trying to tell me. During these moments I have been watched over by a Gryphon, who demands the old English spelling. I discovered him while doing research for my Bachelor's Degree in Medieval Lit. He is quite bearish, which just seems right.

    Last year as I neared my thirtieth birthday I began to feel an affinity to the phoenix. I hope that means that it is time to come out of the ashes and be reborn.

    I wonder if I can get away with naming my future children Gryphon and Phoenix. That might set them up for some bloody adventures on the playground. :)

  9. Ooooh - I just got goose bumps reading your comment! The bear connection is incredible. And I love the names Gryphon and Phoenix. They are unusual, but not totally out there. (Your kids would have no problems in my neck of the woods!)

    PS Here's another connection - I majored in English and fell in-love with medieval lit too!

  10. Wow, interconnectivity is an amazing thing. I have always been drawn to books because when I was sick they were my way of interacting with the world. So Jo March and Luke Skywalker were closer to me than the kids at school. That is why I loved your gran's books. All of those characters felt like family. And now Luke and Ava and Charlie and Cin and Tangerine--they are part of the family too.

    When I was sixteen I named our dog Bear so that I could keep my totem with me. He was a 120 lbs. Lab/Chow mix. He watched over me when I was sick and when I was frustrated with graduate school. He used to sit Sphinx-like at the threshold of my door while I was asleep. Tangerine reminds me of my friend Adrienne who died at 23 of Leukemia. My friend who is a marriage and family therapist thinks that church should be more like AA. And my best friend Lee is who Ava will be in ten years of sobriety. She is going to make it--I know.

    I just loved it Lena.


  11. Thank you so much for sharing - it thrills me to know that my characters have real life counterparts for you!

    I love the way you approach your health challenges with imagination and heart. You ARE the Phoenix. You ARE.

  12. And PS - if you were willing and able to post a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads, I would be most grateful!

  13. Lena
    I would love to talk with you
    I will reach out tonight
    I love your story about Solomon
    My story of this past month
    Has me thinking of getting a tattoo
    I really need to see you

  14. I always love hearing your thoughts Keith. Thank you for extending the conversation! And tolerating different tensions sounds like another great definition of mental health see that! :-)

  15. Do any of you have tattoos, or stories about tattoos? Does the whole idea turn your stomach? Are you fascinated, but haven't found the right totem? buy lawn suits online , lawn suits online shopping ,


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