Mexico No.4: Inside My Head

16th April 2016

I think I have an idea for a new tattoo. It would include a jacaranda blossom, a twisting tree with roots that dig and grasp. That’s all I know for now; but other ideas are coming, slowly but surely, nascent but growing: a pod of tadpoles in a shallow pool who occasionally wiggle their tails, creating convection currents that, now and then, reach the surface to leave a faint trace in my mind.

Why do I want a jacaranda? First of all, it’s the colour. Have you ever seen a flower so uniquely blue? Jacarandas are also an encroaching sign of spring, a symbol of optimism and hope on the horizon, of warmer days around the corner. There’s that quote that stays with me from Anais Nin’s introduction to Tropic of Cancer: “this is a book that goes to the roots and digs under, digs for subterranean springs”. The whole introduction is wonderful, a call to amours, to live the strenuous and the sensuous life: one that does not ignore shame and fear, but lets those emotions in and, paradoxically, the welcoming of negative emotions allows you to experience the positive ones more forcefully: joy, passion, generosity, curiosity (the best of them all).

Also, the jacarandas remind me of Mexico. They lend their name to my address: 968 Rinconada Jacaranda. They also grow up along all the major roads in Colima, and outside it, too. I can’t forget driving along the free road to Ciudad Guzman, just before turning off to approach Nevado de Colima, and reaching that long narrow stretch of track where the jacarandas bloom. In February I first drove down this road, and the flowers were only just in season, on the cusp of ripening; a spatter of blue, like a hose spraying water droplets, was all that could be seen. Now it is April, and the trees that line the narrow avenue are waterfalls of grey-purple flowers, cascading from branches bowing down reverentially under their weight, a parade of cataracts that draw you upwards on a milky morning towards the cool mountain; and on the hazy afternoon that you return, two days later, the droplets of flowers catch flecks of golden light from the west, and draw you down a tunnels whose walls waft in the melting vernal breeze, walls of brushes dipped in blue that paint the ceiling of the sky to match their colour. The jacarandas are so bright they’re almost incandescent. 

Jacaranda blossom on Calle Gonzalo de Sandoval

Sometimes I question if it’s natural that I find writing flows easiest when I write about nature.  I mean, does my writing reflect what I feel; surely a moment of wonder should figure only faintly in my day-to-day writings? Instead I find the description of a sunset will swallow up the majority of a day’s page. Actually, I do have an answer for this. You see, nature appreciation is easy. I think I’ve been gifted with a good sense of wonder: I can stop and gape at a beautiful sunrise any morning of the week, and I don’t think I’ll be jaded with time (unlike some, who’d put this activity on par with watching paint dry). For me it’s simple: that panorama is beautiful, and it’s large, and therefore I feel small, and my mistakes and worries wonderfully insignificant. With people there’s fun and kindness and generosity and romance,  but these things are – obviously – all on a human scale, even if you’re 6’7”. Conversely this relatable scale makes everything larger than life, and more crucial: the stakes are higher, every mistake becomes enlarged, worries inside my head seem magnified. Watching the sun fade in the valley, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t worry about that time I spilled a drink on a date, but you bet I do on my next night out. I’m sure this raising of the stakes happens to most people, but to what extent? Surely not to the point where you’re paralysed, as I sometimes am. I’ve heard it said from one perspective that you should ‘feel the fear and do it anyway‘; from another – less eloquent – that the ‘I don’t give a fuck‘ attitude will get you a long way in life. Both methods would allow me to shrug the world from my shoulders and throw away the atlas, adopt a smaller sense of scale and enjoy the people in front of the panorama. After all, who really gives a fuck? Most of my mistakes occur only inside my head. I suppose that’s why I’ve been thinking of the jacaranda. I don’t hold truck with the idea that tattoos should be avoided because you’d regret them later in life. If you design it well, it will be a beautiful reminder of a time in your life when you thought differently. After all, every one of us is always a work in progress.

First preliminary sketch of jacaranda; drawing ideas for tattoo.

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