Friday, March 29, 2019

I never thought I'd get a tattoo. Then I met Lyle Tuttle.

My freshly inked bird.
I interviewed legendary tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle at the perfect time in my life.
I was about to turn 41, the age my mother was when she killed in a car crash, and couldn't decide how to mark that milestone.
But as I listened to Lyle describe how he didn't need pictures of all the places he'd been or the people he'd met because he carried them on his body, collecting tattoos everywhere like "stickers on luggage," I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

That was cool.

At the time, I had a necklace my mother wore in high school that I put on whenever I wanted her close to me, especially on airplanes. But the necklace irritated my skin, and there was always the chance I'd leave it behind.
So if I got a tattoo on my arm, something small and discreet I could look at whenever I needed to, that seemed like the perfect way to carry her with me always.
I decided to get a bird since my mother loved them so much, and found a simple drawing of a hummingbird I liked online. Knowing I wanted a friend who lived in San Francisco to come with me and that I would prefer a woman to draw on me, I found a female tattoo artist in that city whose work I liked and made an appointment near my birthday.

The drink of courage.
After a stiff drink at a neighborhood bar with my friend, I headed over to get my ink. At first the artist resisted my choice, suggesting I might prefer original artwork to something I "just found on the Internet," but she soon agreed to do as I asked, only questioning me one more time when I explained to her where I wanted the bird.
"You do realize that if I put it there like that, it will be upside for everyone looking at it?"
"That's OK," I said. "It's for me to look at."
She smiled, then did exactly as I asked, and I could not be happier with it.
It is the perfect way to take my mother with me everywhere, helping me when my courage wanes, and reminding me that every day that bird is on my arm is a day she never had.
And I never would have thought to get my bird if I hadn't met Lyle. 

Lyle died Monday, March 25, at his home in Ukiah at the age of 87. Rest in peace, Lyle. And thanks.
Lyle said he liked being able to hide his tattoos "because they're mine."  (Photo by Chris Pugh/Ukiah Daily Journal)
Read more about Lyle's life here, including how he became fascinated with tattoos "when he was 10 years old and saw men returning from World War II with the ink, forever equating it with adventure, travel and escape from small towns such as Boonville and Ukiah."

Friday, March 1, 2019

Lessons from Lucy: Be more patient with everything that crosses my path

After we said good-bye to our cat Lucy, the animal hospital sent us a sympathy card, which is a very nice gesture I'd gotten before. But inside this one was something new: a piece of paper with ink prints made with her paws.

That was cool.

My husband thought the prints were made with a stamp, but I later learned they were indeed her paw prints. "And this is her paw, too," said the woman who gave me Lucy's ashes, handing me a clay disc with another paw print next to the cat's name. I smiled.
I loved that the staff at Yokayo Veterinary Hospital had taken the time to give us a small piece of Lucy to keep. And I love looking at those paw prints so much now that it surprises me, because I found it so hard to love that cat.

She was an eight-pound force that ruled our house for eight years, her stubbornness and loud meows trying our patience many times a day. 
My husband brought her home when his friend could no longer keep her and said she would likely go to a shelter. "She seemed so calm and sweet," my husband said.
But as soon as he put the cat in the car for the long drive home, she started yelling and never stopped, turning out to be the most annoying animal we have ever lived with. She became a cat version of my grandmother: hard to love, harder to like, but still impossible to give up on because she was family.

Lucy lives on.
Our house is much quieter and calmer now that she's gone.
But sometimes I still see her sprinting in front of my feet to direct them to her food bowl, a habit that made me swear with anger every damn time.

Only now do I realize she tripped me because I wasn't paying enough attention to, or being accepting of, life as it was right then.
Because if I were living in the moment, walking in my house instead of in my head, I would remember that Lucy was waiting in the hallway to fly in front of my legs when I walked to the bathroom.
And if I were accepting of Lucy, I would know that there was no use being angry at another being I can't control. And that instead of frustrating myself and others with futile attempts to change their behavior, I need to learn to walk past anger to acceptance.

So now I try and look at those prints every day to remind myself to be more patient with all things that cross my path. But especially the tiny creatures who have no other option but to throw themselves at my feet.