So I am sure you are thinking at this point that I am surely batshit for asking you if you’d be willing to read what I write and then within 24 hours having already purchased and created a blog and posted letters for you. Well, you’re right. I am batshit. Certified, in fact. I have been writing these letters in my mind for so long and I have never found a way to get them out of my head in a way that felt authentic. Now that I have found what I feel is the right path, I feel this flood of words pouring out of me in a way I have dreamed of for so long. I don’t want to overwhelm you with this and want to reassure you that there is no expectation from my end that you read everything or that you read it at a certain pace. I will, I’m sure, at times become pedantic and boring; as this is my general tendency at all times in all forms of communication. lol
I thought I’d start out by explaining how I came up with the title of this site. The picture above is a drawing my sister made and that is her handwriting. This is the sketch we took with us to the tattoo artist when we got our matching tattoos to mark our love and solidarity as we entered what we knew would be one of the most challenging experiences together. My sister is older than me by three years and three days and she has been my rock since I was old enough to form memories and, although I’m a big fan of tattoos, she had only gotten one small one on her wrist prior to getting this one with me. It was one of the more significant times of my life because not only was my super responsible and mature sister joining me in getting permanently marked with a matching tattoo, she designed it and it was in her handwriting, it carried several very special meanings and it it’s meaning has provided me guidance out of dark corners many times since the day I had it etched into my skin.
Here is a picture of our actual tattoos. My sister had hers placed over her heart and mine is on my left forearm.
Our paternal grandmother is the first significant inspiration for the tattoo. She was one of the only true sources of light for me as I was growing up and I spent many happy weekends and summers feeling very loved and very real on her farm. She baked fresh bread every day and I ate it with her homemade strawberry preserves; never imaging there would be a day without Grandmother and without strawberry preserves on warm soft bread. I’m sure I’ll talk about her more at some point but if you’d like to read an old blog post I wrote about here a few years ago (while I was deep in the rabbit hole) you can find it here. (It is actually one of my favorite writings and I cry every time I read it.) In the warmer months, Grandmother liked to take us on walks down the quiet gravel roads in the evenings after the farm chores were finished and tell us the names of the plants, trees, animals, insects and birds as we saw them. She was always particularly fond of the redbirds and during winter we would often put together a jigsaw puzzles. I have a memory that that I am pretty sure is real of a large round puzzle with a beautiful dark green background and a gold edge and a brightly detailed redbird in the center. Those memories are so precious to me.
In 1990, my Grandmother lost our family farm to the banks as part of the Savings and Loan collapse that claimed so many farmers’ land during the late 80’s and early 90’s. Soon afterwards she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and died in 2003ish after becoming completely immobilized by her tremors. I don’t want to talk about that. it makes me sad and I get scared.
At some point in the months or years before we got our tattoos, my sister was visiting our hometown area and decided to drive out and see the farm for the first time since we lost it. It isn’t an easy piece of property to find; I’m not good at estimating but i would guess it’s located almost 60 miles from any major highway and 10 miles from the closest state highway. Getting to the farm was a matter of turning off the state highway and then taking a series of turns onto unmarked gravel roads that were edged by fields with crops and livestock that frequently changed, so my sister became disoriented and almost gave up. But (and this next part is really a bid deal because my sister is one of the most pragmatic, sensible and non-mystical person I’ve ever known) suddenly a redbird flew directly in front of her car as she was approaching an intersection with another gravel road and she decided to follow the bird. And a couple of miles later another redbird flew in front of her car at a turn and she followed it too. I don’t remember for sure how many times this happened but each turn she took was in response to a redbird showing her the way and the path lead her directly to the farm. I remember her incredulity when she told me this story and even now I get a lump in my throat when I tell it.
I was visiting my sister in Colorado when we decided to design and get our tattoos. The decision wasn’t random but was came about as a reaction to the news our mom was dying. My mom will be a big theme in my letters so I won’t go into detail here but I will summarize in saying (1) her relationship with my sister and I both was very complex, (2) we had suspected for some time that she was ill but she wasn’t talking and (3) just fuck and holy shit. I can’t express to you here the way the news set us on edge; knowing that years of tension, painful thi I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT MOM THIS SHIT MAKES ME SAD Okay then I guess I won’t go into detail but my sister and I knew it was going to be a big deal and that we were going to need to lean on each other and promise that no matter what we were sticking together and coming out the other side of it stronger. So the tattoo became the symbol of that pledge. If you’ll notice, the two redbirds (representing me and my sister) are sitting on the branch facing each other.
Earlier in my visit, before we received the news, I had introduced my sister and her wife to one of my favorite movies they had never seen. (It’s called Finding Forrester and if you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it.) In the movie there is a quote of a fictitious poem about the redbird “The only duty of the red flamed spring, is to do nothing more, than to love, fly and sing.” For years I thought they were quoting an actual piece of published poetry in the movie and was so shocked to find out this quote was part of the screenplay because, in my opinion, it is fucking brilliant. And, having just watched the movie and hearing this quote about how a redbird (which is our symbol for Grandmother) lives life so gracefully by simply loving, flying and singing (our mother, in a different life, would have been famous for her beautiful singing voice and she raised us singing – my sister and I both sing and have been members of womens’ choruses)…well, that poem became very real to us in that moment.
My tattoo is highly visible and I get a lot of comments and compliments on it. Many people want to know it’s meaning and it’s hard to summarize all that it means into a quick response that doesn’t bring forth tears and the others from within me. I say “My sister designed it and that is me and her” or “My sister and I got this tattoo when our mom was dying from cancer” or “It’s for my Grandmother.” But none of these answers are really answers. But, as I’ve finally learned at this late stage in live, not every stranger who asks a questions needs an answer. Sometimes, I’ve decided, I just need to show people my message as it’s written and let them read it for themselves; hoping they will gain from it something of value that will bring light into their lives and bring purpose to this little light of mine.