How I found my, “It’s Okay” in the hands of my Marquesan tattooist

May 2, 2012

I’ve been lucky to have a number of encouraging and reassuring people cross my path, people who have confirmed that what I was after was the right thing for me, and a couple of years ago I met someone who had such confidence and assuredness about his sailboat and his cruising plans that I couldn’t help but admire him . As we became friends he repeated his mantra, “it’s okay” about any worries I had about living aboard, fixing up Convivia, and sailing away. He even called us just before we untied the dock lines to remind us that everything would be just fine. I’ve tried to remember /just/ the tone of his believable voice and though I’ve repeated his words a million times, I’ve been searching for my own authentic, “it’s okay.”

Felix Fii, known as , but who actually has a name much longer than either of those, is the Tahuatan tattooist we agreed to meet at seven on Sunday morning. I’ve been old enough to get a for half my life and I’ve wanted one for longer than that, but first I needed a story good enough to tell in permanent ink on my skin. I love the fact that Marquesan tattoos mark rites of passage and my Pacific crossing is certainly worthy of a mark.

Tucker went first. Fati drew with pen carefully on his arm and then moved onto inking it in. I watched Tucker’s face the moment the first buzz of the needle met his shoulder. He didn’t flinch. Marquesan men are supposed to endure the pain without a flinch. Tucker did so for several hours. When it was my turn Tucker suggested I “observe [the sensation] without judgement.” I practiced not judging the pain of my mosquito bites, sprayed myself with additional bug spray, and downed a few more drops of Rescue Remedy. It was my turn.

Fati showed me a little sketch of two elements of my tattoo we had talked about the day before. With my approval he held my arm firmly and drew. His concentration and his hands were steady and strong. It wasn’t long before I was lying on my back on his hard plywood table, my tranquil face displaying my assent as I heard the first buzz of the tattoo tool. I breathed deeply and felt without judging. At first it seemed like my blue ceramic knife tracing designs into my skin. In my mind I changed it to a burning feeling, and then to the sharp point of an ink pen.

Within a minute or two I found my comfort. Fati’s confident hand holding my arm was part of it. I am sure his potent “mana” is something like the reiki energy I am used to. He felt powerful and trustworthy and I knew that whatever mana he offered me was safe. I knew for sure that my tattoo would be perfect.

For a couple of hours at least I lay on the table, alternately staring up at the torn ceiling in his studio/shack, looking at the poster on the wall of a man heavily tattooed on half his body (including his face), and daydreaming. I was totally comfortable, peaceful, even smiling. When Tucker asked me how I was doing my, “I’m okay,” was confident and true. My, “I’m okay,” applied to my arm, the ink, my family, my boat, my voyage, and my life. And so it was that on that day, when I marked forever my passage with the sun the sea and my two children on my arm, I found my, “It’s Okay.”

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