‘You may lose your most valuable property through misfortune in various ways. You may lose your house, your wife and other treasures. But of your moko, you cannot be deprived except by death. It will be your ornament and companion until your last day.’ ~ Netana Whakaari Waimana
I have had this quote on my Facebook profile page for awhile and every time I read it, it strikes me in different ways. It speaks to me because it is true of my life and it speaks to me because of the honor that I feel to wear the artwork that I wear.
I spent the majority of my life thinking that tattoos were interesting, but I could never think of anything I liked well enough to have it indelibly displayed on my body for the rest of my life. That changed in 2006. I had two things happen in 2005 that greatly added to my life experience.
The first thing was that my good friend Dave (roommate from college) got married on the Big Island of Hawaii and while I was there for the wedding with my family, I took the opportunity to go night diving with the Giant Mantas. On this dive, you carry enough weight down with you to make sure you are anchored to the bottom. You also carry a large, very strong flashlight. In addition, the dive masters set up a large light source on the bottom which forms a column of light up to the surface. This attracts plankton…a lot of plankton. This in turn attracts mantas… Game On! These animals are enormous, some of them having 10 foot wingspans and they possess a grace that is amazing for their great size. Watching them do a feeding dance of barrel rolls and turns and having one or two graze my head as they swooped over me was a fairly spiritual experience.
The second thing that happened was that after moving to San Antonio, I went back to San Diego to play in an International Golden Oldies Rugby Tournament with my old rugby club. There were 200 teams from all over the world and during that week we played clubs from Australia, Canada, and The Cook Islands. During the match with the Cook Islanders, I was struck by the beauty of their tattoos. I had played rugby for many years with Islanders from Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Marquesas, Cooks, and of course Maoris from New Zealand and had always admired their artwork, their culture and what their artwork stood for. By the end of the tournament, I knew what I wanted my first tattoo to be… A Giant Manta done in Polynesian style. So when I returned to San Antonio, I talked with a tattoo artist who I knew (Jedi at Element Tattoo) and he drew up something custom for me based on something I saw on the web. I was careful to make sure it was entirely custom because copying tattoos is taboo, especially in the Polynesian culture. As it is with tattoos, once you have one done, you are thinking about your next one.
This led me to do more research into Polynesian style tattoos and their meanings. I found an artist online whose work I could not stop looking at and contacted him on the off chance he ever tattooed in the States. His name is Manu Farrarons and he owns a shop in Tahiti, French Polynesia. It turns out that he comes to the States every so often (Los Angeles) and I booked an appointment with him. Since then, he has tattooed me 3 times, each time discussing with me things about my life and creating art that symbolizes those things based on Tahitian culture. I am honored to wear my life story that depicts those things most important to me and I am honored to wear artwork from both of these fine artists.
So…for those of you who wonder about my tattoos… that is the story. For those of you who think I am crazy… you are probably right. But in my own personal opinion, a story like this beats the heck out of going into a tattoo shop and picking a piece of flash (artwork) off of the wall and telling the artist you want that on your arm. This might work for some people…just not me. So if some of you shook your head when you read my post about my surgery and the fact that I was concerned about my tattoos, this might add some perspective. I am taking this story to my grave with me someday after all 😉
I also recently posted something on my Facebook profile about a conversation I had with a woman at Starbucks one day about my tattoos… I had just gotten done at the gym and was wearing a tank top which showed quite a bit of my chest tattoos. Clearly, she was not a fan based on the face she was making. When I asked her if there was a problem she replied in a snippy fashion ‘Did you ever stop and consider what those tattoos are going to look like when you are 90?’ I considered this for a minute and replied ‘Awesome!’ In retrospect, I guess I could have told her that my chest at 90 would look much better than hers probably would… Hindsight … Sigh 🙂
I am tempted to talk about about how society’s attitudes about tattoos seem to be softening but they are still fairly judgmental…but I think that merits its own post.
The last thing that strikes me about the quote at the start of this blog (sorry for the length) is that the same principle applies to life experience. I think anyone who knows me knows that life experience is worth more to me than possessions. I also think we carry this to our graves and potentially into our next life if we have one. In any case, it strikes me as cool that my moko and my life experience are intertwined and that is something that I will never lose.
Thanks if you made it this far….or as they say in Tahiti… Mauruuru!