Tattoo Challenge

“We’ve been talking about getting a birdie tattoo since I left London. I have R3000 for you. Get the tattoo with me when you’re in SA and whatever is left of the R3000 after you’ve paid for your tat, goes into your fund.”


It’s true. We have been talking about getting a birdie tattoo for a very long time. For at least fifteen of the 20 years we’ve known each other, Sané and I have given, shared with, and made for each other bird-related gifts (clothes, jewellery, books, poems, songs, etc). They have, and continue to be, a symbol of our friendship. For all that they represent; grace, strength, wisdom, transcendence, freedom, imagination (the list goes on but I, for once, shan’t)…

And so we started discussing our friendship tattoo (or bestie birdie). There was a time, when I was young and a bit Gothy, that I thought this sort of thing was nauseating. In my mind’s eye I can see my too-cool-for-school self rolling her eyes scornfully. But now, older and more willing to be vulnerable, I think it’s beautiful. How can honouring a friendship be anything but beautiful?

It started, if my memory serves me correctly, with a children’s book called The Soul Bird. I still read children’s books regularly; I enjoy how much simple wisdom lies within them. I have a handful of my favourites which I think make wonderful adult presents. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, where this story culminates, is by far one of my absolute all-time favourites. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’ll take an hour. Maybe two or three if, like me, you read in your head the way you would out loud – pausing properly, really feeling the words, and imagineacting out the scenes as if it were a play.

We’d had conversations and debates that took us from bird to bird, artist to artist, until finally we came full circle back to Jonathan Livingston Seagull. A seagull may very well not be the most obvious choice of bird tattoo. But Jonathan Livingston Seagull is.   

“To fly as fast as thought to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.” – Chiang, from Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Below: Sane and me, with our very own “perfect, unlimited gulls”.


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