I have always believed that the most successful tattoo (along with having a talented artist) is one that marks an important occasion, something that has a powerful connection for you. I have spent 2 (very short!) weeks in this amazing place, surrounded by people who have the same passion for animals in general, elephants in particular as I do. I came to believe that it was important enough to be formally marked.
Jodi has been with Lek and her elephants for many years and her commitment to both are absolute. She lives in the middle of the elephant field in a bamboo “house” with her son. By her own admission she is an elephant geek who sold her tattoo business in the states to volunteer full-time at Elephant Nature Park. She is an encyclopedia of elephant facts, fantasies and myths, as well as a great deal more.
We were on one of Jodi’s walk abouts, just 2 of us trying desperately to absorb all the stuff that was pouring out of her mouth as well as her body. (Jodi is a tad animated 🙂 ) It came out that I used to be a tattoo artist in another life – we talked – ideas sparked ( I assure you there were no drugs or alcohol involved) and *poof*! things came together into an amazing tattoo to take home with me.
For 2 days news of my impending ink spread through our small community like wild-fire! People were oozing with curiosity and many came up to me with questions. I think they might have been enjoying a vicarious thrill! So last night, after dinner the most amazing ceremony organically unfolded.
Four friends came with me, Tessa (Holland), Kelly (Canada), the twins: Kat and Sabine (Conneticut), would bear witness to the laying of ink on my skin. We walked out to Jody’s house in the dark with the almost-full moon lighting our way. I was at the back of this conga line, grinning at the amazingness of it all. This would be absolutely the best tattoo ever because of everything and everyone that created this magical night.
Rocky (Jodi’s son) lay on the floor playing with his tablet in his Angry Bird blanket and my friends joined him, spreading around Jodi and I’s chairs. All were considering a tattoo as well, so they had an invested interest in this. Jodi sat in a child’s plastic chair with a headlamp to augment the dim lighting of the room festooned with patio lights. The atmosphere was so freaking surreal and I sank into the zone to accept the consequence of the decision I had made. The stencil went on, ohhs and ahhhs said and away we went. I have always believed in tattoo ceremonies and I couldn’t get much better than this.
The machine hummed as it pushed the ink into my skin while I listened to the women in the room chat excitedly. I could hear the elephants around us outside, munching their dinner and shifting closer to the fires that burn near them at night to keep them warm. I don’t watch, preferring to just open myself up to the whole thing. Because of the bamboo slatted floors everyone is forbidden to move during the tattooing. The minute Jodi was done everyone lept up and I finally looked as Jody wiped my arm. I grinned. It was perfect.
This whole experience, the people and most importantly, the elephants are encapsulated in this tattoo on my arm. Like a butterfly trapped in amber.