Alright. Here's the tattoo from last week's post. Let me break it down.
That is the mockingbird from the cover of the copy of To Kill A Mockingbird I read my sophomore year of high school. It's the only book I've read more than once. Although, I would estimate that with all the years I spent in church listening to the readings and lessons from the Bible , it could almost count as having read it more than once. Who am I kidding? I tuned out the verses that had nothing to do with the stories and parables I learned from 1st - 6th grades. And, then I only paid attention when the words triggered a memory associated with cartoon illustrations.
One of my friends said this looked like one of the felt banners from our Lutheran elementary school. I'll be damned. It does. That was not my intent at all. At first I was a little disgusted with that, but hey--church and school and religion and God planted some pretty awesome seeds in me. Argh! Those are leaves--not seeds!
Back to the Mockingbird. Ya know--just go read it again. Or for the first time. You'd be glad you did.
I studied it at a time of coming into my own and the book is about that--both for the young characters in it and adults as well. There are themes of racial justice along with the coming of age. There is judgment that arises out of fear. And Scout. That full-of-sprite little imp. It’s easy to see my youthful self in her. From how she describes her school teacher as a "pretty little thing" and laments the gender roles while she plays with her brother and Dill to her curiosities and fears—I coulda been Scout. Yeah. We could have shared a skin. Maybe a cow suit.
The book touts integrity, grit, simplicity and adventure. I feel those richly when I embody them, and it stings like a tattoo needle when I wish I would have. When I know I should have.
I don't read. I am embarrassed to admit that. As I'm coming into my own as a writer there are only a handful of books and authors that could get a nod as an influence. Harper Lee almost stands alone. She never married, ya know.
If I'd have ever had a child, I would have named him Harper Wayne (after my dad) or her Harper Rose (after my mom's favorite Rosie the Riveter.) Out of every 100 times that I think about not having kids, I only tear up one of them. Maybe two.
There is the fall on my wrist. I love fall. I love the colors and many memories of falls past centered around mountain biking, fresh starts with the beginning of school years and volleyball. I wore #9 in high school and college. Yep--9 leaves. It matches the couple of Mile 9 signs in my garage. (I hope the statute of limitations has lapsed on those.)
Although I love fall, I don't enjoy it fully because I worry about the impending winter. I wanted that reminder to enjoy the moment. The colors capture the leaves as they go from the brilliant greens, to sunny yellow, to vibrant orange and the fiery, daunting red before they die. The planner and control-freak in me is captured in the design's simplicity, but there is also "enjoy the moment and be spontaneous, you ninny" to be gleaned. I just wrote the following for my next column in the Idaho State Journal:
October is gone. I spend September dreading it and November missing it. My heart is never finished mountain biking for the season and Pocatello’s City Creek trails were particularly grand this year. While zipping down the trails, I want to stop the leaves from dying. I want to catch them mid-air and scoop them off the ground and put them back on their branches one by one. I fail to relish the colors and beauty in life’s cycle of the season because the dying in October distracts and saddens me.
Matthew Shepard died in October. Fifteen years ago, the 21 year old University of Wyoming college student was tied to a fence and beaten on a Wyoming prairie.
I spend many moments each fall reflecting on Matthew and the many like him. Us. It’s still weird to go ahead and use the first person. Matthew was killed during a beautiful season.
I wanted the colors of the rainbow. I wanted blue wisps in the background but Blaze, the tattoo artist, suggested we not. Something about balance and contrast and worry I wouldn't be happy with it. I controlled the mini internal freak out nicely. I wanted the rainbow colors, dammit! All of them. How was I going to reconcile no blue?
It dawned on me later the next day. That deep ocean blue of her eyes. It's not with me anymore. The color's absence on my wrist highlights the beauty and color that once was but ... just isn't now. And it's okay. The tattoo is going to be okay.
There’s a wart on my wrist. On the mockingbird’s right wing just above the greenest leaf. I hadn’t realized it was there until the color took form and a different shade atop the wart took hold. It makes me a little crazy. If I could go back, I think I’d rotate the mockingbird about 2 millimeters. I would. But, I can’t. That’s probably good. I focus on imperfections too much—in myself and in others. Not just any “others” but ones who are close to me. It’s amazingly disturbing actually.
A friend of mine (who needs to cow with me!!) sent me this quote recently from hplyrikz.com:
The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws. That’s just the way it is. That is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship.
Yeah. All that. All that lies on my little mockingbird’s purple, warted wing. He's got a bit of darkness in his tail but a bold brilliance in the rest of his color. Weird. I do think of it as a him. I really don't know what that's about. Should it be a "her"? Great. Now I'm going to focus on some gender questions with my mockingbird and wonder why the hell I have to be such a binary thinker. What great mental fodder for a fallish mountain bike ride. Wonder what Scout would think?