When I was a teenager I worked for multiple ~summers~ in a tattoo and piercing studio; I’ve never been afraid of needles — a useful thing when you spend your childhood in and out of hospitals — and I’ve always been drawn to the kinds of environments that democratize vulnerability.
My job mostly involved answering the phone and scheduling appointments and declining to allow goth teens to get Korn lyrics on their upper thighs. Occasionally I’d sterilize instruments or trace patterns or reassure grown men who should really have known better that their new “tribal” tattoo was definitely the right move.
To this day I find these places reassuringly familiar; the very specific art on the walls, the sounds, the music, the scrupulously arranged equipment, the clientele.
I know when I am at my most unsettled when I find myself considering adding yet another hole in my ear to my collection (sometimes while the most recent addition is still healing), or engaging in serious reflection on the merits of half vs quarter sleeves.
As I write this the Bahamas are getting wrecked by a category 5 hurricane and there’s nothing I can really do about it. I will give money to support recovery efforts, as I always do. I will check on friends and family in the path of the storm.
I will continue to focus on the harms I can prevent and actively mitigate. I will continue bookmarking the portfolios of tattoo artists and piercers who know how to work on and with black and brown skin.
Find the things and the people and the places that help you to keep going. Because there is much left to do.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
— The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
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