A writer’s prayer. Please, something out there somewhere, find me.
I have several decks of tarot cards. The deck I am currently most fond of is the Animal–Wise Tarot. I use the Tarot to give myself a three-dimensional picture of where I am. It provides me with metaphors to understand what is not immediately clear to me.
I suppose I am most fond of this one because it incorporates nature into the metaphors — and the accompanying book has a wolf on the cover.
Five years ago, I got a tattoo. A howling she-wolf tattooed on my right forearm right below my elbow: a local Livermore artist, Linda Ryan, did the original artwork.
The tattoo artist, and she is quite an artist, started scraping my skin away, embedding the ink as she went, waxing poetic about how once people get a tattoo, they want another, and then another.
All I could think was “Get this over with quick. I’m about to slap you it hurts so much.”
About a week later, I noticed that the wolf wasn’t washing off my arm. It’s not that I had thought it would wash away — I just wasn’t prepared for its permanence.
Then began, my odyssey to accept my forearm. This is not a small tattoo, as I had planned; it takes up about half my forearm. It cannot be ignored. It’s just so there.
I wore long sleeves, made jokes about it, endured shocked reactions by a few people – including my mother, who had trouble accepting my piercing my ears my senior year of high school. “You’ll always have holes,” she warned. “They never grow closed.”
My mother was big on certain dire warnings. “If you don’t wear a bra, your breasts will end up like those women in National Geographic!”
One can only imagine what she thought would happen to a tattooed forearm.
At some point, I remembered why I decided to get my tattoo. I asked a friend, who has a lovely Om character tattooed on his wrist, if it hurt to get one, expecting him to say no.
“Pain is a part of it,” he said. “Not because I enjoyed it, but because it marked a turning point in my life. It’s part of the sensory memory.”
Then I re-read this passage from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s Women Who Run With the Wolves:
La Loba (Wolf Woman), the old one, the One Who Knows, is within us. She thrives in the deepest soul-psyche of women, the ancient and vital Wild Woman. She describes her home as that place in time where the spirit of women and the spirit of wolf meet, the place where her mind and her instincts mingle, where a woman’s deep life funds her mundane life. It is the point where the I and the Thou kiss, the place where women run with the wolves.
And I understood permanence in a new way: No turning back. Once you recognize the wild woman in you, you can’t ignore her. This is no out-of-control-woman-on-the-verge wild woman. This woman is wild because she is in sync with her nature, a nature that for years cultures have tried to destroy: by burning women at the stake; by mutilating their genitalia; by corseting their organs until they began to fail; by turning crones into frightful creatures.
I think that the she-wolf on my forearm howls to remind me to banish shame from my writing shed and from my life. Dismissing shame opens the door to compassion.
Who knows how much we can accomplish when we walk through that door.
I am writing this in Moody’s Café in Mendocino. The proprietress set a mug filled with wonderfully fragrant flowers next to me, asking me if their fragrance was too much for me. It wasn’t. Soon, other patrons were burying their noses in the flowers. None was disappointed. One woman came by for a second dose, and then went back to writing.
The flowers were wild azaleas.
Take a few minutes to be wild today.
A bit more from Mendocino: