I have had two tattoos on my ankles since my late teens early twenties. I have always liked one more than the other… so they have also served as a reminder that all people-- judges, therapists, ministers, even tattoo artists have bad days. Some bad days have more permanent consequences than others. Both of my tattoos are from an era in my life that involved a lot of feeling like I had missed the 60's and even more Grateful Dead. One tattoo is of the word peace in rainbow colors with flowers all around and the other a peace symbol that is supposed to look like it is covered in foliage. It instead looks a bit like a failed attempt at coloring inside the lines. Because of my chosen professions of teaching and ministry, I have spent most of my time covering them. In the Oklahoma summers most of my wardrobe has revolved around what I could wear with black opaque tights.
Just before my wife and I had our commitment ceremony in Tulsa in July of 2009, I decided to invest in covering up the one I liked the least with another tattoo. I found an artist whose work I liked, scheduled an appointment, and made sure he was in a good mood. The cover up tattoo is of a tree of life in all four seasons with delicate leaves that move through the seasonal colors until winter where there are no leaves at all. In the section that represents the spring, there is a tiny acorn that represented my hope of bringing our daughter into the world. At the commitment ceremony, I walked bare-legged in a summer dress for the first time in many years and am proud to remember this phase in my life.
In January, I found myself on a new precipice. I had been invited to participate in a new business venture and was at the beginning of redefining my ministerial role as the church began to restructure. I knew that I wanted to cover up the other ankle tattoo from my youth, and I knew it was time to mark a new chapter in my life yet again. Knowing what I wanted and the style of artist I was after, I found someone extremely talented. So now on my left calf, with her tail wrapped around my ankle to cover the peace and flowers is a beautiful peacock.
My mother was Christian and my father was a Buddhist Christian and so the peacock is a symbol that reminds me from where I have come. And it represents what I aspire to be. I have always been fascinated by peacocks: their beauty and mystique, the way they use their voice. They nest on the ground but root in the trees. Even though their beauty is often translated into vanity, early Christians adopted the ancient Greek myth about the peacock that they do not decay after death. So the peacock is the Easter bird and often depicted next to the tree of life (which I didn’t know until after the fact). Peacocks symbolize transformation and immortality. The feathers mimicking eyes remind me of the multiple ways to see any situation. In Buddhism, they are a symbol of openness, acceptance and wisdom, synonymous with bodhisattvas. Just as Peacocks are capable of eating many poisonous plants without being affected, bodhisattvas are believed to transform the poisonous mind of ignorance, desire and hatred into the thought of enlightenment, to take delusions as the path toward liberation opening up colourfully like the peacocks' tail.
And so to mark this new phase and only weeks after launching this new blog project, I got a new tattoo in my collar.