yes, i got a tattoo.

Fiona Monks dandelion [image by Fiona Monks]

I said I would, to celebrate my 50th birthday, and so I did.

And no, I probably won't post any photos of it. When I see tattoo photos, I spend most of my time trying to figure out exactly what body part that might be or obsessing over the odd-shaped freckle near it and wondering if I might suggest the wearer get that checked out with a dermatologist.

But in lieu of photos, in answer to many questions and emails (and now that my mother has recovered from a dead faint if she is reading this), I'll explain what it is and when we meet over a latte and a wee little free trade organic spelt scone sometime, I'll be glad to show it to you if it's of interest.

Inside right forearm, to answer the most common question.

Line drawings of three dandelions, in black, like old botanical drawings.

Why three dandelions? John, Emma, and Tess.

Together, there are 37 stems in the dandelions. Why 37? It's a number that holds some meaning for me.

Why dandelions? Because when we are kids, they are magical! Pure magic! We run toward them and they delight us immensely. We even make wishes on them. And as adults, they are weeds. To remind myself to reclaim the magical in the every day, to see the world as a child as much as I possibly can. And also because dandelions represent what is ephemeral, fleeting, windblown, like life is.

Two tiny stems, pieces of dandelion, are blowing off in the wind. Why two? Daddy and Nina.

And with these questions from the Buddha, inked in my own handwriting: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?

The tattoo artist was Kitty Love at Liquid Dragon in Asheville. I loved her artistry and her passion for the arts.

Most tattoos, I realized as I sat in the tattoo place waiting, are for the benefit of the viewer, the other. They are positioned to be seen by the other person, as a display. Not this one. It is not upside down on my forearm for you to see. It is positioned for me to glance down and see it and remember all that those images and words mean to me. Like magic.

And that is my tattoo tale.


  1. Liz Scherer September 21, 2010

    I love your tale. And you. For sharing this. My tattoo is personal and in a private place. I see it everyday. And everyday it resonates and reminds me of what was, what is and what will be. I think about getting another. However, I am not sure that another would hold as much meaning.

    Happy Birthday. May the 3 dandelions, 37 stems and 2 stem pieces a float in the wind remind you of what was, what is and what will be.

  2. Peggy Hoffman September 21, 2010

    To celebrate my 50th I got a tatoo. On top of my right foot. A butterfly. Before my Mom died, she told me that she always though the butterfly was the sign for me. When she died, one of the very first things I saw was a butterfly. At my saddest moments I always find a butterfly. Butterfly’s free me.

    Yes, tatoo’s can free us too!

  3. Dick Carlson September 21, 2010

    So happy to hear that it’s not something involving a sunset you saw from the balcony of a Holiday Inn Express on a book tour!

    Srsly — very nice thoughts there, and I particularly like the idea of having it facing you. If I ever do it (waiting for painless tattooing) that’s my plan. Something involving pugs biting Unicorns on the butt…

  4. janet smith September 21, 2010

    A tattoo is so personal and I love when someone gets something personal – it does speak to who we are and to us. I wear my tattoo with pride, with shock, with honor, with regret – we carry each other now. The tattoo a life of it’s own, a life with me.

    Happy 50.

  5. Sherry Smyth September 21, 2010

    Patti, it sounds divine…the special meaning it all has for you — and those you love. You rock.

  6. Vickie September 21, 2010

    Wonderful! I love it. And hopefully some day I’ll have the opportunity to have that latte with you and see it :). Your words have touched me deeply over the past year, and made me laugh at times. Thank you!

  7. Maureen September 21, 2010

    Happy 50th! Great post.

  8. Karen D September 21, 2010

    I love the meaning behind the tattoo.. perfect~ enjoy

  9. Kerrie Blazek September 21, 2010

    Dearest Patti, so thrilled to hear of your tattoo. There is something magical about having a symbol respresenting our truth, especially when life gets in the way of our ability to rememeber. I was first inked this year too, in celebration of my 40th. It is a Lithuanian cross with a lotus flower in the center — symbolizing an homage to my roots while honoring my own path to enlightenment. May 2010 give us all reason to celebrate… Happy Birthday!

  10. Cynthia September 21, 2010

    I just got my first tattoo in May, just making it during my 45th year of life. It’s not finished, as it has rested on my left arm for the last few months, I realize there is a bit more to the story. I also placed it so that it was a message to me … grace on my left wrist and peace on my right. I need to be reminded, on the days when I life becomes too much, when the dark thoughts invade, I need to be reminded … grace and peace.

  11. Colleen Wainwright September 21, 2010

    This is the most well-thought-out tattoo maybe ever. 37 stems, even!

    I will conjure an image of it in my head, and admire respectfully to myself.

    Also, happy 50th!

  12. Kathryn - Collage Diva September 21, 2010

    Happy Birthday! What a beautiful post. You now have me curious about how it looks. Maybe one day our paths will cross for the scone, coffee, and tattoo viewing.


  13. Allyson September 21, 2010

    Simply awesome.

  14. Jenni Welsch September 21, 2010

    Love it! I just got my third over the weekend (ohm on left wrist) and the artist tried (& tried again) to get me to turn it upside down for the sake of others. I flat out said “No; it’s for me, not other people.” So I had to smile when I read this post & saw that you took the same approach.

  15. Carolynn September 21, 2010

    I love it! Although, it’s not in the least bit important that I love it, only that you do. I do love the significance of it, the creativity, and the hidden meaning.

    My one & only tattoo is also positioned on the inside of my left wrist, upside down for me to see & read. It’s meant as a reminder for me, as well. (My Mom doesn’t know about mine yet…*smile*)

    Happy 50th, Patti!


  16. Heather Plett September 21, 2010

    Oh! This took my breath away! What a great idea! I’ve got a really special connection with dandelions, since they were my dad’s favourite flowers. He taught me so many lessons about the beauty of weeds and so many other things we overlook in life.

    After he died, we found an old roll of film of his, and on it was an eerily beautiful picture of his shadow as he bent over to take a photo of a patch of dandelions.

    I wrote about it here…

    And now that you’ve inspired me, I may need to get a tatto of a dandelion too.

  17. Tess The Bold Life September 21, 2010

    How fun. I want one on the inside of my wrist. Peace. I give up my peace to easily over ego stuff.

  18. marcia at Child in Harmony September 21, 2010

    Happy 50th! cool that you got a tattoo and with such meaning!
    just glorious!

    happy day!

  19. Nigel Pottle September 22, 2010

    It sounds beautful. And yes, like all of those who are thinking the same thing. I’d love a picture – if you are ever ready. And if you do show it, just remind us where it is so we don’t get all curious about body parts.

  20. wendy September 22, 2010

    happy birthday.

  21. jylene September 22, 2010

    i finally got my tattoo this summer, on vacation in wilmington. i got a sea shell (because i love them) on the inside of my ankle. like you i felt it was not something to display, but something for me to see. it is beautiful. a funny thing, when we were looking for an artist, we talked to a lot of people to find out who was the best in the area. and we met a girl who had black line dandelions on her thigh. i chose to go to her guy, and i *almost* changed my mind on what my tattoo would be. those dandelions were so cool!

  22. Tabitha the KnittingJourneyman September 22, 2010

    That is such an incredible story.
    I am glad to know i am not the only one who has a tattoo positioned so I can see it and so I can read it. If you aren’t getting a tattoo for you, why bother?
    I do love the artistry in your story, the absolute beauty in your tattoo. The symbolism is so wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Sally September 22, 2010

    I plan to ask you to show it to me when we meet, finally. Of course it would be so incredibly well thought out.

  24. tracy September 22, 2010

    i like it. :)

  25. neighbor September 23, 2010

    Not sure that I’m one to get a tattoo, but I asked my daughter to do a henna tattoo for me in the spring. I’m happy to find other dandelion lovers, as that’s the image I chose. (here, if you’re interested:

    Patti, thank you for your lovely blog and the joy and kindness you inspire and share.


  26. Susan Fuller-Sutherland September 24, 2010

    There must be something about turning 50 and getting a tatoo..I got mine when I turned 50 too. It started out to be a small tribute, and ended up emblazoning my back. People gasp when they see it…no doubt about it. The Lord will see me coming :-)

    I’ve tried to talk our local art museum into having an exhibit of tatoo art, and then inviting people to come in and become “human art” with their tatoo…I really think it would be a lovely way to introduce yourself. I’ll keep working on that. Thanks for reminding me. Maybe you’ll think about sharing a photo for the exhibit, Patti!

  27. Kyeli March 2, 2012

    Yay!  All my tattoos are for me, too.  They hold my stories. <3 

  28. [...] My tattoo has three questions from the Buddha on it. [...]

  29. T H January 2, 2013

    To Greeks, Dandelion Greens (the leaves BEFORE the flowers grow) make for a super nutritious side dish. They are boiled or steamed, add lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper and viola, you have food that is good for the liver, the blood, skin, hair, etc! To herbalists, dandelion root is a liver tonic, infused and drank with a dash of lemon and maybe honey.

    One persons weed is anther persons delicacy is yet another persons joy. : )

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