Winter in Bloom: New Ink

Sounds weird, right? Nothing blooms in winter.

So last Summer, as I considered what I wanted to get for my new tattoo – the all-important, representing-my-life-and-it’s-many-woes-and-wins-since-Eli-was-born ink – I ran the gamut. Flowers? Dead flowers? A specific plant that blooms once and then dies, but in its bloom is utterly magnificent? And how to represent the family around it? Birds. Okay, birds. But what birds? What kind of bird would Paul be? And Matt? And Eli?

Well, finally, I settled and simplified and landed on a barren tree – you know, for barren me – with four little nondescript birds hanging around, one of which would be flying away (because, you know, Matt’s 15 now and about to…fly…away…).

I scheduled the appointment for the weekend after my birthday with an artist in Nashville. He’d done my Amaro-Rwot tattoo, which I love Love LOVE, so naturally I assumed this one would be equally awesome. Right?

Wrong:

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The day after I got it, my arm still burning like a mo’, I kept looking at it and thinking, “Why isn’t this right? What’s wrong? Why am I not in love with this? THIS IS PERMANENT!! AMY! Make yourself love it. MAKE yourself!”

I never even shared with Paul (much less anyone else) how disappointed I was with the tattoo. It was an expensive birthday gift. It was supposed to mean SO MUCH! I was almost ashamed that I didn’t love it…ashamed I didn’t stop before the needle hit my skin and say, “Wait. This isn’t quite right. Let’s do some more designing.”

So I decided in my head almost immediately to “finish” it (read: fix, redo, start over) for Christmas.

I’d wanted to add 1 Corinthians 2:9 anyway. It’s been the constant theme of my life, this call of God to remember, “You have absolutely no idea what I’ve planned for you. It is unfathomably, unthinkably, inconceivably better than anything you’ve dreamed for yourself.” 

It’s reverberated through every disappointment and proven to be the Light breaking through illuminating my steps.

After Eli was born, especially… after the bleeding, after the near-death and the hysterectomy… Once it began to sink in that I would never carry a child again, or feel the flutter of new life or the excruciating wonder of labor and delivery, this was the promise I hung on to for dear life. Most often, by the thinnest of unraveling threads.

Well, I wasn’t going back to Nashville to have it fixed, that was certain. And I remembered another random person having this INCREDIBLE tattoo telling me “Miss Kitty, over at Live Fast Die Young, did this.” So I looked her up. I fell in love with her work. I called. I made the consultation.

We sat down, she looked at the original tattoo, and said, “What’s up with the tentacles?”

YES!

And I scheduled the inking.

In the planning, I got to thinking about what exactly I wanted to do (other than fix the octopus problem). I still liked the barren tree – but I began to notice the winter trees around me. Most of them aren’t bare…they still have buds, and are simply awaiting Spring. And their roots still reach deep and wide. Barren trees aren’t uprooted trees, they aren’t dead trees. They’re just bare, for a season. Which, as I’ve processed and grieved and sought God in all this, I’ve come to realize, is….well, me. Barren, but not empty. Barren, but not dead. There is still much life around and even in me.

It’s just going to happen in a different way…in an inconceivable way.

Yesterday, we got to work. Well, Kat got to work. I got cold and clammy. I watched her draw on my arm and turn the monster into a masterpiece.

We talked running (I may have a new running partner!). We talked tragedy (after last Friday, who couldn’t?). We talked ink. We talked about why we get it.

And when we were finished, this is what I came home with:

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A winter tree, with little buds waiting to bloom.

Deep, winding roots.

And a promise, wrapped around my wrist as if to guide me, hold me, captivate me:

no eye has seen no ear has heard no mind conceived