slowly, slowly

new moon in Pisces

Today I am a tattooed aspiring-tarotist.
How very unlikely that seemed, not so long ago.

I’ve spent about a third of my life wanting a tattoo and not getting one. Then, this afternoon – on the spur of the moment, with about 12 years’ consideration – I finally did. My reasons might make for uncomfortable reading, and not just for my parents (hi mam, hi dad, I still have no idea whether I would ever want you to read this), so I will leave you with the beautiful image and haiku which inspired it while you decide whether to read on.

‘Snail and Mount Fuji’ – Yoshiko Yamamoto

Why a snail?

For a long time, my planned tattoo would have been a triskele, a Celtic symbol I have always loved; then a fox, for my notorious fondness of them. When I moved to Liverpool, I started dreaming of magpies, and toyed with the idea of getting one inked on each shoulder. When I left, I thought of getting a small anchor, a way of showing how the city had marked me. But, by then, we were already living so far inland that it didn’t feel right.

A snail was the next idea, in this long chain of ideas, but it came at the right time.

Why now?

Because I’m healing. I’m recovering from the lowest point of a major depression, and breaking a decade-long pattern of self-harm. I finally realised I couldn’t heal from one without facing the other. For me, self-harm was a way of bridging the intolerable rift between the way I felt and the face I projected to the world. I literally inscribed my pain on my skin.

There are much better things to inscribe on the skin than pain.

When I was coming out of my depression, I kept thinking of a snail I had seen, years ago, in Alicante. The weather had been dry for weeks, then one day – suddenly – the heavens opened. As I sheltered in a nearby doorway, I saw a snail coming out of its shell and moving down the branch of a hibiscus bush. It looked so tender and so hopeful, as it forged on eyestalks-first: a small part of the world brought back to life by the rain. I think I remembered it because it felt like hope, something I hadn’t felt for so long.

So here it is:


Still a little red, but healing nicely with the help of Skin SOS from Sunlight Apothecary.

I keep expecting to look at my arm and feel regret, but it hasn’t happened yet. My feelings range from excitement – because OMG I GOT INKED CHECK IT OUT – to comfort. Every time I look down, those tender, questing eye-stalks look up at me, and I remember how it feels to hope.

Fearless little snail
Slowly, slowly, you can climb
Great Fuji mountain!

–Kobayashi Issa

Author: angharadlois

"I'm only interested in everything."

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