Gills like Fluttering Pages

I mentioned about halfway down Thursday’s post that I was planning to get my second tattoo the next day.   My mother appears to be the only person who’s interested in whether or not I did or what it looks like—which is just slightly disconcerting, let me tell you—but the rest of you are stuck because I need a post, so here we go.

My first tattoo was a response to a lot of things going on at the time.  While the text had long been planned and the font finally chosen, the decision to get it done right then and there was completely spontaneous.  And I have no regrets.

But this one . . . this one was meticulously, ridiculously planned to the point that any mention of it was starting to seriously irritate both my husband and Watson.*  Mostly I think because this tattoo I’ve been obsessing over is only one single word.

It is, however, a single word that I’ll be confusing people with at the asylum retirement home for years to come, which I think should’ve earned me a little slack—even if it turned out to be a very good thing that the artist** had to move the original appointment back a couple of weeks because I was changing my mind about the look and placement of the thing up until last Monday.

My decision held steady, though, so Watson—whom, as I’ve said, I highly recommend as a tattooing buddy—and I went with me Friday morning, armed with my laptop and a flash drive with the image of what I wanted.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t access the building’s WiFi, my flash wouldn’t work, and my laptop refused to acknowledge their printer.

But I did know which font I’d used in which proportions—yes, obsession has an upside—so the artist downloaded it from FontSpace, recreated what I wanted, and then we all checked the spelling several (dozen) times, because the tattoo might be one word, but that word is . . . different.

After all that, the tattooing itself was a bit anti-climactic.  But, when finished,  perfect:

For those of you blinking in confusion and thinking, O-kaaaay, this is where it started (click to read, unless your eyes are much better than mine):

See, I originally thought I was Beth in this scenario—Lord knows  my husband does—but then I realized that it went a little deeper than that:

Reading is as unconscious a reflex to me as breathing.  I once lost a $50 bet when I couldn’t go an hour without reading—I’d automatically snagged a book on the way to the bathroom and I was honestly confused when I was called on it.

Writing is as much a part of me as reading.  About fifteen years ago, I decided to quit cold turkey—fiction, non-fiction, all of it—because I wasn’t a writer, I was never going to be a writer, I was nothing but a sad wannabe, and I should stick to other people’s words.  I managed one month, maybe, before my husband brought me a legal pad and a pen and told me to “Write something.  Anything.  Please.”***  So I did.  And whatever happens, or doesn’t, I won’t ever quit again.

I’ve been comfortable in all kinds of libraries all my life, and now I spend most of my awake time in one, like a frog in a swamp, so I can take a quick dip when things get too dry.

And to be honest, I’m probably more functional while swimming underneath a wave of written words—mine or someone else’s—and I sincerely doubt that’s ever going to change.

Words—chained, woven, knitted, glued, hammered, scattered, sung—have always provided nourishment, excitement, direction, and purpose.  And escape, too, until it’s safe to come out again.

But I never had a word for what I was, before.

And now I do.


*Though Watson is better at hiding it.  You would think my husband would have built up more tolerance for my unlimited ability to overthink everything, but it’s possible my immediate reaction to his marriage proposal fooled him.

**Whom I chose because I liked what I’d seen of her lettering, plus the place where she works has won several awards and has an excellent reputation.  They also have a couple wiseasses on staff, so I felt right at home.

***Yeah, he might be an enabler, but if I smoked, I’m absolutely certain he wouldn’t have bought me a pack of Camels and told me to light up—and if we asked him, he’d probably say it was more like bringing a Happy Meal to a stubborn toddler on a hunger strike.


Wondermark is the brainchild of the brilliant, handsome, and essentially non-litigious David Malki ! who deserves that exclamation point after his name.

22 thoughts on “Gills like Fluttering Pages

  1. Congratulations! That’s a nice one. 🙂 Where did you place it?
    How insane/ridiculous/not from this world of you to even think about not writing anymore. A writer is not someone who sells books or writes for a living. A writer is a person who cannot live without writing! You are not getting out of it — you are a writer! XD

  2. That is one fabulous tattoo! It looks great — congrats. And now I’ll be sitting at my desk at work muttering “bibliophibian, bibliophibian” over and over, just cause it’s fun to say.

  3. Again, it”s you. You grew up in a family that called the bathroom “The library” so what do you expect. Some day when you have to deal with all the books at our home, you will certainly qualify for your tattoo, plus. I hope my “grands” are developing a love of words in all forms,too.

    • I’ll bring my snorkel. 😀

      The kids love words—they especially love asking for the definitions of difficult ones during dinner. Genetics strike again!

  4. I love the tattoo. I love the title of this post. I love it that your husband brought you the pen and legal pad. I love your mom’s interest in what you do.

    I could go on and on.

    Oh, and I love the font you chose for the tattoo. You’re very cool. With my commitment issues, I could never have a tattoo. The second guessing afterward would be the death of me.

    • Thank you, Lisa! 🙂

      Tattoos are like children—once you have them, there’s no going back. hence my obsessive planning, which is where tattoos are not like children, because children defy planning and tattoos just sit there . . . I’ve lost control of this somewhere . . .

  5. I got the patience in the family, remember? And Dad’s sweat glands, but that’s another story…

    I do have a certain Monty Python-esque “get on with it!” reaction, though. My first tattoo was my usual decision made and done – 24 hours tops. So your hemming and hawing frankly amused me.

    Nerds of a feather and all that… After all, I AM letting myself go…

    • Really? Patience? No, wait—you did sit through two eps of Leverage with me the other day. Okay.

      I didn’t hem or haw. I considered at great length.

      Get a haircut, nerdbird.

  6. How much do I love this?!
    There’s a columnist in who calls himself the Biblioracle, in the Chicago Tribs new fiction insert. It’s another of those wonderful words…if every word started with biblio…oh, yes, that’s my idea of utopia.

  7. Sarah, I loved everything about this post – the writing, the cartoon that led to the tattoo, the tattoo, your mother, Watson, your husband and YOU!

  8. If didn’t love my family so much, I’d ask to be adopted. Maybe an honorary spot? Or a library card! There, we are. I need a library card access to all of your homes…OK, that sounds much creepier aloud. Anyway, wonderful post, beautiful ink and this is the first blog I reblogged. A great start to Tuesday, Sarah. Thanks.

  9. Pingback: Random Thursday: Art to See, Tats for Me, and Toes that Squee | Earful of Cider

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