Well the very best place to start is at the top, I suppose. If I take that literally on my body we could start at my head. Take a close look and you will see that my medium brown hair is colored to hide the ever increasing number of grey hairs. The skin of my face is pale, marked with sun damage, large pores and freckles and rises over high cheek bones, I like it–it’s mine and it’s not likely to get ‘better’ or more youthful no matter what my skincare line promises. I have earned all of the fine lines by lost and misplaced sunglasses. I have been gifted the acne, in various stages of healing, by my ovaries. I have hazel eyes–those are a gift, too. If you drop to my shoulders, on the right is a large tattoo. It covers most of my shoulder blade and is a twisted pine clinging to a rock cliff with the sunrise or sunset behind.
Scars are always stories, and tattoos are the scars you choose. So the story goes like this:
In the land of Michigan, where a young man and a young woman met, fell in love and married, not long after they welcomed their first child. A girl with hazel eyes and big feet (she grew into them)–after four short months this new father and new mother and new baby moved from the land of Michigan to the plains. And then they would move in another year, three after that, six there, seven in another, and to another until this little girl with hazel eyes found herself a girl with average sized feet (I told you she grew into them) and a high school diploma. She set out in a economy car and moved and moved and moved and moved again until she was 27 she didn’t have the same zip code for longer than six months. Now if you imagine that this kind of moving sounds bohemian and adventurous, good on you—in fact stop reading, just go on thinking that I am some charmed roving soul. If your thought was, “that sounds exhausting” then please continue and perhaps put on the kettle, we may need the tea.
Migrancy or nomadic life is no blemish on my parents, they followed their own Divine path and it lead them from prairie town to seminary back to prairie towns. So hear me when I say that what they did was not wrong, but it did leave me with scars. Moving left me with the inability to settle in and start sending out the oh so necessary shoots from my soul, so that my roots could tangle and mingle with the souls that shared it’s location. All of us are organisms that thrive when we are strong in our own understanding of self and strong in our connections with others who are also strong in their understanding of self. Like aspen groves we grow up lifting our life gathering leaves toward the heavens and below supporting each other in a network that feeds and sustains all. Well that is the ideal sense, I think, we may act more like gnarled old oaks and grow tight in our grains and lonely in our post.
I wanted to be a stream planted tree, I wanted deep roots and to be supported by my neighbors and to support them. But moving made root dropping difficult. No one gladly turned over the soil of the community and let me push my self down through dark and fertile silt to nourish my soul. I thought very little about what was necessary to ‘be planted.’ What great effort those around would have had to exert to allow me an easy planting, but I resented them and their deep local roots.
I spent a fair amount of acrylic painting disterra’d trees, floating with no earth, but also no sky to look to for Life. I dated boys with families that cling to the land that their ancestors had turned over with pride and plow, but I could not even graft myself to their rootstock. Each moves felt like another scar raised against my soul.
But scars are stories and tattoos are the scars you choose. And I found myself at 30 years old faced with a thought and an image. A tree gnarled by the work of digging in, and growing where theirs is little soil, but the wonder of seeing so much of the heavens. Reaching out to the company of other misfit trees whose seeds have also been blown to this high place. We do not get the ease of the Michigan climate or the wideness of the plains. We are spades by wind and journey and the rocks that we wind our strong roots around. I carry the shape of my journey, and I would not push any to follow it themselves, but I can tell you when you stop trying to be easily planted and instead dig in, you will find the sunrise and sunset is sweet as we dig in to rocky home.