One Permanent Pine Tree
My first tattoo at year 35, was really about yoga; the Ohm symbol, the sound of life. It was about getting back to listening to my body and feeling whole and recognizing the need for balance. It was about standing still, standing in tree pose or downward dog or cobra and being o.k. with silence. After years of unhealthy obsessions and endless hours at a gym to obtain some unattainable ideal, I had begun to just listen. I used to spend at least 2 hours every day at the gym, running no where on a treadmill and watching t.v. from the elliptical machine. Working out had been about punishment, the only way to reduce the anxiety of living. Eating less and being less and feeling lost. It was about taking up less space while trying to have complete control. It was an impossible and incredibly lonely life. But years later…I exercised to feel good and to take up the space where I belonged. Yoga was the start of listening to what was good and healthy and fulfilling.
I felt alive again by doing yoga, accompanied by an amazing instructor, in the first time in many years. In a way that felt like life. Acceptance. And I started to feel whole, or at least that I was getting closer. I had a career. I had new friends and old friends and family, and this wonderful adopted dog, Millie, that became my grace. In Southern Ohio and West Virginia, in a place I had no connection to other than a job, I found friends like family and just as important, found community.
That was the only tattoo I though I would get. In a tattoo parlor in Kentucky with my current (and short lived) boyfriend on my 35th birthday on a warm April day, I got my first tattoo. He joked with me saying I would be addicted and would get more. “No, only the one”, I told him. Just this Ohm symbol on my left shoulder blade. Balance. That was all I thought I would need. It wasn’t quite enough.
But now…things are moving forward. Up mountain peaks and wooded trails of Douglas firs and pines in Oregon and Washington. Up mountain peaks with ropes and crampons and an ice ax. Down rivers in a kayak and footsteps running along the ocean with my white haired furry friend. Up rock faces with a set of QuickDraws and a rope. As I have gotten back to the only place I felt like I really belonged, life is so much better than I could have dreamed in those flat prairie days of wheat and sunflowers of the fertile plains of North Dakota.
When I turned 40 this April, I knew that I would commit to the tattoo of a single pine tree that I had been thinking about for a year.
This tattoo, I realized in my time back home in Oregon, a place that has felt more like home than anywhere I have lived, is about movement, not about standing still. And I am stronger from all of it. Grace.
I have had my time spent sobbing on the living room floor. I have dealt with my anxious heart stopping moments of paralyzing fear. I have felt alone and lost and worthless. I have been broke and hopeless and full of despair. I have let go of my childhood home and the sorrow of how things change. I have dealt with my own ghosts. I have left that behind, to appreciate the past and to recognize all it gave me.
I have picked myself back up. I have moved my legs to climb mountains and canyons. I have moved my legs to bike to work. I have hiked with my dog and run alongside the ocean. I have laid in my tent to look up at the desert star filled skies. I have stood on the summit. The trees have astonished me. They have made me feel small and huge and important and insignificant. And incredibly significant all at the same time.
The people in my life, my amazing friends and family have been my roots and have held me strong. Strength.
All the adventures before and ahead, lead me to the wildness of life. I am here. I am so alive and full of this fleeting satisfaction. The pine trees wave and sway. They will last a lot longer than all of this but…
I was here for a moment for all of this. And I am once again marked by grace.
“How wild it was, to let it be.”-Cheryl Strayed