the slow sweetness of
crusted orange-brown pulp
clustered teardrop packets
rimmed and sealed against
ravens, maybe, or frost:
tucking seeds into soil,
something heartbreaking, gentle
about two bodies bent over the ground that way
they draw their eyebrows together
pinching the dirt closed
holding their breaths
in their hands
i’ve heard fingertips hold
infinite urgent callus and
in the grass, grasping
little hands shuck seeds from long field weeds
long tendons deliver motion to scatter
faerie food, ridges, rivers i have been to
showers i have taken
i’ve heard wrinkling in water
may be an adaptation
abstractions in the articulation of
the san gabriel mountains
extending hazily across the orange grove
the next mountains i stitch will be
purple, spontaneous, winged.
It’s hard for me to talk about this in a way that is even remotely concise. The process of design and meaning-making stretched over a year and a half (and in many ways, it’s not over!). After coming up with the initial concept, I promised myself that I would create ten thoughtful drafts before inking it to my body, which took a good amount of time! The first three came quickly, then months passed between the rest. I’d return to the idea after a particularly nest-like conversation, a moment in a nest-like space, a new development in my relationship to my body, a walk in the woods, or sometimes when I just felt inexplicably moved to. This process was not unlike the building of a nest – a slow thoughtful gathering of materials and meaning – collecting, refining, and shaping various elements into an image that feels, to me, like home.
I’ve always loved birds and their nests. I admire the meticulous, intricate nature of their construction, at once delicate and strong. I love that the body is often such an integral part of a nest – broody hens, for example, pluck out their own feathers to soften their nest, and I know other animals have a similar practice. I especially love the way creatures go about building their nests amidst so much chaos and confusion – in trees that creak and fall, in busy doorways, in the roof tiles of broken homes, in traffic lights, in cliffs above the ocean – it seems to me the perfect metaphor for the precariousness of existence, the simultaneous fragility and resilience of all living things.
Since I was a kid I’ve been taken with the nest-like quality of particular spaces – their coziness, the way they smell of their own history, their creaky, tiny, warm, strength. I remember curling up in the trunk of our old VW van and nesting there – this is one of my earliest and vaguest memories, nesting in our old house, with its creaky screen doors, sunny patio, and cramped intimacy, my attic bedroom and the way it felt like living in the sky, nesting too while traveling – in the swell of relief and self-love after five hours of being lost, in the sunrises and goodmornings, in the tent and the way it still feels to sit outside in starlight, singing or listening to stories and falling asleep under an itchy blanket, the lull of voices. Nesting again in what felt especially culminating at the time, the beloved Grove House, where so many have nested before me and so many continue to nest after I’ve gone.
To me, a nest is the intricate constellation of details (tangible and intangible) that mean place, belonging, family, love. Building a nest is the endless process of building a self, a home, out of one’s surroundings, out of whatever resources are available, creating a place or a feeling or a moment of comfort even amidst difficulty and uncertainty. This morning I think with so much love of all the people, places, movements, memories, textures, sounds, all the moments of luminosity and warmth that twine themselves in and out of my twig body, the tangle-haired bird-child I’ve always been, and I’m absolutely thrilled to carry with me such a visual reminder of this ongoing nest.
Endless thanks to the extraordinary artist, Wyatt Hesemeyer with Chimera Tattoo Studio in Santa Cruz, who made my first tattoo experience a perfect one.