Entering a New Year, Entering a New Season

Photograph of brush painted horse tattoo

It is Lunar New Year’s Eve, and many places that celebrate Lunar New Year have already entered into the Year of the Tiger. My mother was a tiger. Tigers are brave and protective; they can be stubborn, but are also generous and intelligent. She was an earth tiger: strong-minded, determined, always ready for a challenge, honest and independent. My mother was all of these things.

I am an earth horse. Earth elements like my mom and I are about balance (fitting since I’m also a Libra). Earth horses have many friends and are always trying to help those they love. They can be indecisive and like to get involved in (far too) many things. They value freedom & independence as long as they also feel supported and encouraged. Sometimes they can be temperamental. I am all of these things.

When my mother died 27 years ago this week, I was 16. With her sudden death, I lost a large part of myself, being thrust into a world that I was unprepared for, and it took me many years of searching to find her, to find myself again.

Today, on Lunar New Year’s Eve, as I start the week of the anniversary of my mother’s death, and as I continue a journey to reclaim my own identity, learning and unlearning, growing and evolving, I got the tattoo in the photograph above. I have been thinking about this tattoo for over 10 years. Originally, I was scheduled to get it at the end of last year, but COVID delays meant that today would be the day for this tattoo to find its home.

It is even more special as my former student, a Taiwanese American woman who I’ve always shared a kinship bond with, did the tattoo for me. We spent hours catching up on years and sharing stories, like I always wished I could do with my mother. We spent an afternoon of borrowed time together. We spent hours of time unpacking shared and distinct histories.

I am so grateful.

This tattoo is me and it is for me.

The Chinese character for horse is the single radical: 馬; the Chinese character for mother adds a woman radical before the horse: 媽; the Chinese character that indicates a question marker is the mouth radical + the horse radical: 嗎.

This horse is me the earth horse, me the mother (both to my children and to myself, as I carry forth my foremothers from previous generations), me with more questions than answers, with ever more to know.

I carry me, as I have been doing for many years, but with the freedom and wisdom to know that all of me is moving forward.

I am so grateful.




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