I made it through a good four decades of my life as a total cleanskin. I had always been interested in tattoos, but never got one for fear of how it would look when I was 80 and in a nursing home. Then time began to wear its tracks on my body and I thought, you know what? I’m going to change forever anyway. So last year I had a small tattoo inked on my left forearm.What I really liked about my first ‘too is that it said something to me that was deeply personal and meaningful. Another idea that has become meaningful for me recently is the idea of harvesting. It’s true that I’ve spent a lot of my time as an adult ploughing, sowing, watering, fertilising, but haven’t really reaped much of a harvest. What I needed, I told myself, was to write the word HARVEST on the back of my hand to remind myself, the way you might write BUY TOOTHPASTE somewhere prominent when you’ve already forgotten it a hundred times.
And so here’s my new tattoo, which is the Viking rune for “harvest” (jera). It has all these lovely pagan resonances of seasons and time and agriculture, and the design is supposed to represent two scythes. I originally put it there as a reminder to harvest but, Viking magic being what it is (and remember, I don’t believe in magic except on days that I do), it’s actually a spell of sorts: to bring me my harvest. Let’s just say I’m being very careful what I sow of late.
I don’t know about tattoos. Lots of my friends have them, lots don’t. I don’t think tattoos mean you’re dangerous or cheap, nor sexy or cool. They just are what they are: a permanent mark on your body that says something to you or about you. I’m not ruling out a third. And if I do, dear reader, I’ll give you the whole story once again. Just as I’ll give the whole story to my grandchildren, when they’re sitting on my lap in the nursing home.