People always ask what the tattoos mean. That is when people are slightly more comfortable with me. Those who are very comfortable with me, those who know me well, either smirk knowingly or smirk condescendingly. Because, no matter how you look at the ink, it seems that I have commemorated my fanfiction in them.
That is not what happened.
I just gave up teaching at the university then, the profession that was chosen for me by my parents and by the societal expectations of Russia at the end of 1990s. And I was just starting to write my fanfiction. And I saw the most wonderful necklace in a shop, a tree, in silver, made by a wonderful talented Winnipeg based artist.
It was my 31st birthday then, and I went and got my first tattoo. I showed my necklace and told the artist that it was what I wanted. I also told him that I wanted to change my life and to take care of trees from now on. I wanted it. I wanted to feel life, and growth, and withering. And he told me that this profession was called ‘arborist’ and of course he would be happy to ‘ink this oak onto my wrist.’
“Oak?” I gasped. I didn’t even realise. It was cute though, I thought then. Oak as in Oakenshield, as in Tolkien’s character. My favourite, since I was six. I had been very fond of the old grumpy Dwarf, and later, with a certain measure of embarrassment also very fond of the blue eyed hunk in Peter Jackson’s films. By then I had written a few stories with my OC named Wren and Thorin, and while the tattooist was creating the lines on my skin, I smiled.
“Is it the tree of life?” I am always asked. And I nod. Of course it is. It is my tree of life. The life that I finally live, the life that is full of choices I make myself, the life where writing takes a lot of space, and where Thorin Oakenshield became an inspiration for John Greaves, the protagonist of my first novel Convince Me the Winter is Over.
It was my 32nd birthday, and I once again went into Rebel Waltz Tattoo, and sat in that chair. It was a different artist, and he didn’t tell me anything about being an arborist, but I didn’t ask. By then I was working in my bakery and was mostly concerned with the heat and how my birdie would heal.
“I want a wren on a wire,” I said, and he stared at me.
“A what on a wire?”
He googled wrens, and we debated the design for an hour.
Wren on a wire. My wonderful friend Erin suggested it as a title for a novel, and I was in love. Its half alliteration, the song of my beloved Leonard Cohen it reminded me of, the simplicity of it, – all of it was perfect for that second novel I was writing, and I thanked her. She only claimed bragging rights, and she gets all of them.
Now, when asked, I say the bird is a symbol.
“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its wings. Always believe in yourself.”
If I know the person a bit better, I explain that Wren on a Wire is the title of the novel I’m working on right now.
So, no, these are not fandom tattoos, and I’m not mad enough to ink my fanfiction characters into my skin. And yes, Wren is that important for me that there could have been no other bird to sit on a branch or a wire for me to remember that I need to believe in myself.