there is a tattoo on my left forearm.
it is a tribal mark.
it was not chosen from a set of options in a three ring binder or a gallery on a wall.
it was driven into my skin with a common sewing pin. the soot scraped off blackened glass of a kerosene lantern and mixed with the moisture of crushed hibiscus flowers. a twelve year old girl was the steady handed artist. i submitted with nerves, watching a nine year old child near me receive her own via the edge of a razor blade.
it means i belong. recognized as one of their own…as i have been since near birth. not pointed to…this mark is for me. to remind me of my heart home.
to remind me of a childhood tribe who:
- held me on their hips.
- caressed my hand whenever we spoke.
- carried me across flooded rivers.
- laughed to tears, delighted by anything i did differently.
- brought offerings of food from their scant resources over and over to show me that i was valued, cared for.
- walked five miles to say goodbye every time the airplane bumped across the grassy strip to disappear for months at a time.
they laid claim to me with a new name and i claimed a piece of their culture to keep as close to me as possible…embedded in my skin to show what i hold in my heart.
i used to think that this was the only tribe i could ever name as mine, putting that word in a mind-crafted box of trinkets and treasures from my past.
the truth is god has given me a hundred tribes in this lifetime. each for a purpose and a season.
i can only show some, but i claim them all…
only one tattoo on my arm. hundreds on my heart.