Six years ago this week, the world lost a treasure, and I sat at my desk at GSLIS mourning someone I never had the opportunity to really know. In previous years I’ve resolved to be more like Leslie – this year I put that resolution on my body. In her honor, do something unexpectedly awesome for someone in your life today.
I got my first tattoo about a month ago.
I waited a long time for it. I’ve considered other tattoos over the years, but each time decided to wait a year to make sure I still wanted whatever it was that I was considering. I’ve been waiting five years, and while what I got isn’t precisely what I’ve been imagining for those five years, it’s precisely what I wanted.
Five and half years ago, I walked a portion of the Camino Portugués, the Portuguese branch of the Camino de Santiago. I dreamt of the Camino for seven years before I set foot on the Road. I’ve dreamt of it for the five and a half years since I turned back in Vilarinho, since I sat in the plaza outside the Catedral, swearing I would return.
Everyone who walks the Road carries or wears a scallop shell to mark themselves as a pilgrim. For years I’ve liked the idea of having a tattoo based on the scallop shell, a permanent and tangible reminder that I am – or want to be – constantly seeking, moving forward, deeply connected to the world around me.
The Road is marked with wayfinding devices – some permanent, erected with official placards, and others spray-painted on curbs. For years, I thought about having a rough arrow on the inside of my wrist – an approximation of the yellow arrows I saw on stone walls and the backs of signs. I liked the idea of a wayfinding device as a reminder that I am seeking direction, and that help will always be provided when it is needed most.
And so I settled on both: the stylized scallop shell used as a wayfinding device. I nearly cried when the tattoo artist brought out the sketch and applied the temporary to my arm. The pain was intense in a purgatory way, just as the physical and emotional pain of the Road were so long ago. I left euphoric.
I’m so happy with it, with what it means to me, with the intentions formalized by the inscription on my body. Estoy peregrina. Voy a viajar a Santiago.
Erin and Ben, I think you should go to this:
St. Louis Old School Tattoo Expo 2006
City Museum hosts three days of ink, seminars, needles, and some of the world’s best tattoo artists. Come show off old tats or get a new one–only at CM.
I’m still on the fence about getting inked. I really like my idea, but I don’t think I’m ready to do it, and wonder if I ever will be. I want some version of the credential stamp received in Santiago de Compostela tattooed either on my inner wrist – perhaps where I current wear my bracelet with the Camino’s yellow arrow – or at the nape of my neck.
Are you inked? If so, what’s the meaning behind your design?