There. I said it flat-out. No beating around the bush. It had been on my mind for the longest time. For years, really. Why I got daring and just did it this time is a mystery, and yet it makes perfect sense.
Roderick introduced me to the New Hampshire Highland Games in 2001. This is where we came across Roderick’s and my favorite Scottish, tribal band, Albannach. I later did a bit of artwork for them and we’ve continued to see them every year at this event, always transfixed by the power of their music. It made Roderick so happy.
The three-day weekend is always energizing, though draining at the same time. The music is awesome. It is the best way to replenish creative energies and seeing Jamesie and the band keeps me connected to a very meaningful part of Roderick. There is something of our story that endures through our friends’ music.
It is during the first time I attended the games with Roderick that I discovered a strong connection to beech trees. They are everywhere around the Games’ venue. For the many years we returned there together, we always had lunch with our backs against one especially powerful beech. I spend a long time sitting with this tree when I return to this event. This is my first and last stop of the weekend.
My love for these trees became even deeper when we visited Scotland. There is a Beech friend there, in Blair Atholl, Roderick’s ancestral grounds, who had great significance to both of us. If you ever stood on ancient grounds, in Scotland, you might know that there is a strong presence there. This is an experience that stays with me to this day.
For the longest time, I had been toying with the notion of getting a small tattoo of a beech leaf in memory of my story with Roderick, and our marriage in Scotland. This time, for some reason, I took one more step and began investigating options before I left for the weekend. To my delight, I discovered that there was an award-winning and highly acclaimed tattoo artist less than five minutes from where I stayed.
I stopped in on Sunday, shortly after the Games’ closing ceremonies. I felt comfortable, but gave myself permission to back out too. The man who was there gave me an appointment for Monday at 1 pm. I still had time to think about it. That night, I searched for design ideas online. I gave it more thought over breakfast in the morning. I felt surprisingly calm about it. It felt right. I showed up early at his tattoo studio and watched him work on a beautiful tattoo on the shoulder of a woman who had an appointment before mine.
He was a tall and imposing man. In a moment, I was going to be alone in there with this stranger, and to get branded, so to speak. Normally, I should have been overcome with doubt. What am I doing here? What am I thinking, at my age? What will my sister say? What if I regret this? But I was utterly calm instead. This felt right.
You should have seen the artwork this man has created on people’s bodies. It is stunning. Just stunning. I felt like my simple request was an insult to his talent and experience. I showed him a few photographs I had saved on my tablet. He went to his drawing table and returned promptly with a design. He nailed it. I’ll try to get a better photo when it’s fully healed.
At this time of year, beech adorn golden leaves that remain on the branches through much of winter. This is a characteristic of beech, and their cousins the oak. I have found these trees to be most attractive and magnetic during the seasons when they turn to gold.
The artist worked in silence, until after a while he discreetly asked what was the significance of the beech leaf. He teased me about it a bit, but not in a disrespectful manner at all. Roderick would have enjoyed meeting this man. They are both very creative and gentle, quiet, brilliant and respectful.
Sitting in the chair while a symbol of my eternal connection with Roderick and Scotland was etched on my neck, I felt a deep calm I think I have not felt in three years. I was honoring a sort of personal authenticity in that moment.
When I ponder this now, I think I understand that the setting was perfect for personal acceptance of my own oddities. The tattoo artist sees all sorts of people from all backgrounds. He produces art on all sorts of bodies. He produces art he enjoys designing, and art that means nothing to him at all. Yet there is no judgement there. This was a great gift.
Above me, at the very top of the artist’s supplies shelves, sat a few theater props, including a sculpted mask of a man’s face. It looked peaceful. Approving. And it looked like Roderick. Another gift.
I invite you to browse through the photo gallery at Kelly’s Tattoo, Woodstock, NH. And I invite you to indulge in a trip to this studio, should you ever decide you need a tattoo. It is worth every single mile. Ask for owner/artist Tim Mosman.