Contrary Winds

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On Friday December 23rd I got my second tattoo. I decided on a sort of whimsical looking tree of life symbol and of course the questions began. “Why a tree? Does it mean something? Why so big?” Usually this is that awkward moment in the conversation where I stare uncomfortably with my mouth agape wondering how honestly I should answer. That’s the thing about a tattoo with intention- it usually has a pretty deep-rooted meaning (pun intended). I always have that moment where I wonder just how honest they want me to be. I see their expectant faces…like they’re saying ‘please tell me some grand adventure story that’s attached to this permanent fixture on your body’ and I think boyy are they going to be disappointed. But, there is a story.

This tattoo represents the importance of my roots and how they relate to my heart’s worth and by extension my growth as a human being. This tree is in memory of my grandparents who taught me the value of believing in the beauty of love and living life for every moment.  It was selected with intention as each branch is an extension of my own journey- the tiny paths and narrow alleys that make up my journey and ultimately begin where the intent of all my action does- my heart. My heart is the hub of it all- where the pain and the virtue, the successes and the disappointments, the love and the loss reside. It’s where I know they’ll always be.

 A few years ago I heard a quote that touched me and has sparked this interest in earth’s citizens of the forest. It was “When we long for life without difficulties remember that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure”. I started picturing that very resilient tree with its bending branches and strong roots and core and rough exterior bark. I pictured it when things were tough and I pictured it when I experienced drastic changes in my life. Maybe I was looking for it, but I started to notice it as a recurring symbol in my life and it has brought me comfort. When I tearfully exchanged goodbyes with my university roommates of 3 incredible years, I painted this on a mug during our final project together. When I got to Sweden for my year-long exchange a very large beautiful tree was located directly outside my window and my first purchase was adhesive decals that looked like branches for my walls. My roommates there all commented on how “homey” my room was and how comfortable it felt. When I moved home and got my first “big girl” job I went to the café in our building on lunch and there on the wall was a tree painted in a very similar style to the one in my tattoo. I stopped believing in coincidence a long time ago.

 It all just feels full circle somehow. It seems like in a world of chaos where the ground is shifting below me and I sometimes feel I have to run to keep up, there are few things that mean more than the authenticity of where I began, and the love and nurturing that has and continues to be the inspiring force behind it all.

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