Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stocking Stuffer


Monday, November 27, 2006

Come hear us play psychedelic music for the stars

Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday as much as I did. Fueled by a vegetarian feast inspired by our stay in New Mexico and plenty of rest and relaxation, leafy and I jammed in preparation for our upcoming gig at the Montgomery College planetarium this Saturday -- December 2nd at 8pm. (It's free. )

This performance will feature leafy green on electric guitar/effects/laptop and yours truly on Juno synthesizer. The good Doctor Williams will set the controls for the heart of the sun with his laser light show.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Behold the Goddess

In the spring of 2005, I was suddenly inspired to get a tattoo. I'm not exactly sure why this dormant fascination reemerged with such intensity, but perhaps it was partially due to the fact that I was getting in touch with all kinds of dormant aspects of myself as I was approaching 30. So what if it's an obvious thing to exit your 20s with a goal to get more in touch with your true self? I now think it was also an unconscious drawing to a rite of passage.

I began researching the tattoo process and explored what kind of artwork I would want permanently etched into my skin. I'm glad I was truly open to the exploratory process, as my design ideas evolved as I conducted more research. For this research, I would check blogs such as Needled, run Google image searches and investigate the online portfolios of tattoo artists from tattoo shop websites, while also skimming through tons of art books, especially those of artists from the Art Nouveau or Jugendstil period. I asked tattooed friends and friends of friends for advice and would initiate conversations when I saw a tat I liked on someone. I learned a lot. I would then send myself the images I liked in an email and began compiling what became a nearly 30-page file. (!!) This process took several months. I didn't actually get the ink done until right after my 30th.

I knew I wanted a design that incorporated elements of nature in a fantastic and vibrant way. First, I contemplated getting branches with flowers tattooed on my chest. This idea evolved into a tree on my back, but as I reviewed images I found/scanned and emailed to myself, I kept noticing a trend – images of what I called 'changelings' – mostly mermaids. Then, I saw that I kept saving pictures of goddesses and women by Alphonse Mucha. Ultimately, I created my own goddess. I was feeling a bit sheepish at first about this, but I quickly got over that. (Oh, and the tree is still incorporated into the design.)

I also knew that somehow I wanted to incorporate a deer into the design. I had once had a powerful dream where a deer lifted me up. This dream really energized me during a personally turbulent time, I felt like my dream deer was lifting me into my own spiritual awakening. Later, I learned that deer typically signify feminine traits, and the goddess of the hunt Diana/Artemis was often depicted with a deer by her side, I knew I was onto something – I liked the idea of having a strong feminine protector on my side (and skin) – so what if the deer isn't a hunting stag?

When it came time to determine how her face should look, I knew I did not want a demure goddess shyly looking downward or to the side. But, I also wanted her to not look stern, but peaceful and perhaps even smiling. Contemplating these details, I amusedly realized this was a projection of how I would like to portray myself: strong, graceful, looking you straight in the eye, but with a wink. I searched and searched for the perfect gaze in artworks and in images of ancient gods and goddesses, and was surprised that no face I found ever fit perfectly. It wasn't until I started considering what contemporary women I found to be natural goddesses that I found the right face, that of Julia Butterfly Hill. In a beautiful act of civil disobedience and love, Hill lived in an ancient redwood she named 'Luna' for two years to save Luna and its surrounding forest of trees from being bulldozed. I liked the fact that her face exudes strength but also peacefulness. She is inspiring, and definitely worthy of immortal commemoration, I decided.

The placement of the goddess' hands is also intentional. The right hand is in the Abhaya mudra. Abhaya in Sanskrit means fearlessness. Who can't do with a little extra protection, peace, and the dispelling of fear? The left hand is in Varada mudra, which symbolizes charity and compassion. More good reminders -- be fearless, but be compassionate.

If nothing else, my goddess tattoo would serve as a permanent reminder of how I would like to be -- strong, fearless, compassionate and serene. It would also mark this time in my life, when I opened up and found life to be exciting and full of potential. I have to admit this wasn't my outlook for far too long.

Some important things I learned during the tattooing process:

Tattoo artists are, indeed, artists who may not get their proper due. Susan Behney, the woman who designed my tattoo, was phenomenal. (You may have noticed her portfolio linked from my blog for quite some time now.) Not only did she have to translate my incoherent ramblings jotted down next to a huge document w/the pictures I had collected (see above), but she had to be extremely compassionate, focused and patient in order to realize the design and then the actual tattoo. Her artwork was delicate and detailed, and perfectly captured my ideas. But, etching a tattoo on someone also requires great patience and compassion. I'd say, in a way, Susan was also a great caregiver. She had to work on this moving, (twitching), breathing canvas that was sometimes experiencing pain. Even with all the activity of a jumpin parlor with customers walking to and fro and a shared workspace (with a colleague who had too much of a penchant for whistling), she kept her cool and also kept me cool. I can't tell you how nice it was to have periodic cleansings of my back (to wipe away the accumulating ink and blood) with cool water and lovely smelling Dr. Bronner's lavender soap. Cynics take note - aromatherapy does work. This reminds me to include a little PSA: TIP YOUR TATTOO ARTIST!

If you care about the longevity of your tattoo, your relationship to the sun will change. I didn't realize that getting a tattoo would actually promote a healthier lifestyle, but I now am much more conscious of how much sun shines on my skin, and I protect my skin from harmful UV rays as a byproduct of wanting my tat to remain vibrant. So, when I worked in my community garden this summer, I did not just wear a tank top and shorts. No, I was the one with the SPF 45 slathered on my skin (and if I could find a higher SPF, I'd use that, instead!), as well as a tank top and then on top of that an SPF-enriched blouse AND on top of that, a wide-brimmed hat. (Just see the picture in my blogger profile.)

Lemon drops really help when you just gotta 'bite the bullet' and get through some excruciating moments. (Plus, lemons are so much safer and tastier.) I also recommend bringing your own pillow, especially if you're going to be sitting for a while.

Pain is not as bad as you might anticipate it to be. In fact, it's the anticipation that accentuates the uncomfortable feeling. It was so key for me to relax and just concentrate on my breathing. Focusing on a drishti and opening myself to the situation, instead of randomly darting my gaze from place to place and clenching up my muscles did wonders...in fact, there were times when I knew the tattoo gun was working on me (the way the gun buzzed also let me know when there was actual contact), but I couldn't feel it. Wacky. I also learned that I can handle a lot more than I realize. This lesson has taught me that I keep myself confined within safety boundaries that are far too stringent. In all aspects -- from how much I physically engage in life ( e.g., yoga is a whole new experience when you realize you can encourage yourself to go much deeper than you ever thought possible) -- to my interpersonal communication (very helpful at work, but maybe a bummer for my superiors, as I am more prone to diplomatically call them to task and affirm my opinions) and so on. I think I always pulled back from fully experiencing life because the super ego would constantly warn me 'it's gonna hurt,' but even when something does hurt, well, the pain is temporary and I trust I can get through it. I'm not saying I'm inviting pain (looks up and around, knocks on wood), but I have a better appreciation of what that sensation is truly telling me. (Edited to add that I'm referring to acute pain, not chronic. I have the utmost of compassion for those suffering from chronic pain.)

I also wanted to cross the boundaries I typically place myself within and actually see an idea of mine fully realized. I'm still a little fuzzy on this, but I determined to make a commitment, instead of letting this design idea stay sketched in a notebook somewhere, but never completed. I wanted this art on my body. A body I am becoming more comfortable accepting, and a body that is all my own. Sure, I purposefully chose a location on my body that most people would never see, and I make sure whatever I'm wearing in the office obscures the tat, but I don't think a tattoo is a tacky, awful thing or something that degrades me, or whatever notion keeps some people from recognizing tattoos as an artform. So, I'm proud to wear it. Forever.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A new day?

Does last night's victory mean we may have to change our license plates anytime soon? Naw, probably not. But it's nice to think it's a possibility that in the next election, I may cast a vote for someone who is more than a "Shadow" representative in the U.S. Congress. Learn more here, mates who live in real states.