New Mexico, tattoos

Tattoo You

I can remember when only sailors and bad guys had tattoos. Now it seems half the population does. At least that was the case when we went today for a soak in the mineral springs at Ojo Caliente.

My uncle was the first person I knew who had tattoos. He got them when he was in the Navy. I recall a panther stretched over one forearm. There might have been a Sacred Heart of Jesus symbol and even a Mom.

The second was a summer boyfriend when I was home from college. He was more of your bad boy type, but not really cause he was sweet to me. He dropped out in middle school — he had stayed back twice and was already 16 — and worked as a fisherman. The tattoo on one arm had a crude dagger and the words “Born to Lose” above it. He carved it himself and colored it with black ink. He said it hurt like a son-of-a-you-know-what.

The third is my husband, Hank. When I met him, he had a rather primitive tattoo on his upper arm: a shamrock, an Irish pipe and the word “Disease.” He got it in Jersey when he was 15 and admits to being rather drunk at the time. Hence it wasn’t the crispest tattoo. Why “Disease”? It was a tribute to when he had scarlet fever.

Hank once asked his father what he would do if ever got a tattoo. His answer: he would break off his arm and beat him with the bloody stump. So for the next few years until he left home, Hank swam in a sweatshirt at the Jersey Shore.

Years later, when we lived in Seattle, where tattoos were legal, he got his covered by a talented and rather famous tattoo artist, Madame Lazonga.

Hank showing off his new tattoo in Seattle.

Hank showing off his new tattoo in Seattle.

Hank opted for a Japanese-style chrysanthemum, which is a marked improvement over what was underneath.

Then, tattoos became legal most everywhere. Perfectly ordinary citizens got them.

In fact three of our six kids have tattoos.

Me? Nah.

So back to Ojo Caliente. I marveled at the artistry of many of the tattoos I saw. Several people had their arms, legs, backs, and chests covered by intricate patterns. Others had one small tattoo on their arm or leg.

I saw lots of flowers, birds, trees, Native American and Celtic symbols. One man had a bicyclist on one leg and a rooster with a top hat on his back. A  woman in a bikini had birds on each butt cheek — their wings rose above her bathing suit bottom. Another woman had Asian writing going down each side of her spine. I don’t know what it said but I hope she does.

It didn’t matter the body type — thin, hefty, short, tall — or age, these people wore their tattoos proudly. And I couldn’t help looking.

Nature, New Mexico

Looking Skyward

I am lucky to have an unimpeded view of Northern New Mexico’s big, big sky. There are no tall buildings on the mesa. No crowded neighborhoods. No trees, alas. Our sky hangs above for all to see.

Our sunsets are famous, of course, with deep reds, oranges, and pinks like the one I shot above. Photographers and painters go nuts over them. So do the tourists. I’ve been here almost nine years, and they never fail to impress me as well.

In the summer, during monsoon season, we get strong afternoon thunder storms with chain lightning, including bolts that flex horizontally across the sky.

We have skies as blue as bluebirds’ feathers. And interesting cloud formations. On a recent walk, my friend Virginia pointed to a cloud formation she called “mare’s tails” — cirrus to others —  and said we should get rain within a few days.

Then, there is our night sky so dark the stars are exceptionally bright. I’ve seen meteors shoot across the sky, including one that fell far away onto the mesa in a grand display of sparks.

Photo of April 4 eclipse courtesy of astronomer Gary Zientara

Photo of April 4 eclipse courtesy of astronomer Gary Zientara

We had a lunar eclipse early April 4. I got myself out of bed to see the earth cast its shadow on the full moon. I wasn’t disappointed. The moon had a rosy tint, hence, its Blood Moon name.

Gary Zientara, an astronomer who lives in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, took the photo of the eclipse in progress on this post. He writes a column called Star Lite for The Taos News, where I work.

Sometimes I hear about a great celestial event and unfortunately the sky is clouded or it’s in another part of the world. Other times we get lucky. I remember the Hale-Bopp Comet that was visible to the eye for a long time in the late ’90s.

But then there is the unexpected. Once in college I was running an errand in the center of town. I stopped at a park bench just as the light dimmed for a solar eclipse I didn’t know was going to happen. I sat there until it was over, careful not to look at the sun, but enjoying the experience nonetheless.