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The Anchor, The Octopus, The Moon, and the Star

How a multifaceted mural tattoo reflects the complexity of my longest lasting friendships

By Cheryl LynnPublished 4 years ago 5 min read
Summer of 2013: Freshly colored Anchor and Octopus.

I was 20 years old in the year 2011. I was a sophomore at St. John’s College, one of the most prestigious schools in my home state of New Mexico. Born and raised in Santa Fe, I was too chola for my classmates, but I was also too nerdy for my fellow locals. Some people called me a “townie”, others called me “pretentious.” Although I still lived at home, I would usually crash with my college friends instead, preferring their company over my dysfunctional family in an overcrowded house in the downtown barrio.

While crashing on my friends couches, perhaps a bit past my welcome, I became very close with a handful of fellow misfits. We would drink top shelf liquor and smoke potent herb, banging our heads to The Doors and Them Crooked Vultures. In retrospect, song titles like “People Are Strange”, “Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I”, and “Dead End Friends” were quite telling.

Back in those days, we were all still young, naive, and even toxic in some ways. We cared more about partying, than our schoolwork. We were sullen and rebellious, feeling nothing but disdain and resentment for authority. We were loud, obnoxious, and rude, even to each other. Ostensibly, one could argue that we were average college students, that we were acting our age, as reckless and irresponsible as a twenty-something should be. But think about the quintessential frat boy or sorority girl, or the stereotypical millennial, and it’s not exactly flattering.

But through all the ups and downs, I still had a core circle of friends. We loved each other, flaws and all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has “The Gang”, The Last Airbender has “Team Avatar”, and St. John’s College had “The Family.” As is natural, some us drifted apart over the years, or even had dramatic fall-outs. But most of us still have mad love for each other. Even as the world burns around us, with literal wildfires, pandemics, and social unrest, we still find time to send each other sweet nothings in the mail, or check in with texts and calls. It reminds me of the good old days, when were still all together. Maybe part of me is still as naive and childish as I was 10 years ago, just for my sentimental nostalgia and wishful thinking alone. I do still hope that someday, we will all reunite and relive the golden years.

But at the time, I just lived in the moment. Truly bohemian and hedonistic, I was as impulsive as the rest of my clique. One day, I convinced “roommates” to let my friends - a tattoo artist named Coyote and his girlfriend Hazel- crash with us. After all, I myself had already been crashing there for months. What difference would two more heads do? Besides, we could ask them to hook us up with some sick ink in exchange. Win win!

And so, Coyote and Hazel stayed there, and gave new ink to myself, Sapphire, and Celeste. Sapphire got a flower, Celeste got some geometric shapes. And I got this:

Spring of 2012: The Outline of the Octopus and Anchor, and the fully colored Moon and Star.

An octopus, an anchor, a moon, and a star. Let me explain:

Then, as now, I loved the whole Family. But even in such a heavenly constellation, one star shone even brighter than the rest. Alice. One of the smartest, wittiest, coolest people in the world. Even though our relationship has had its share of strain and tension, our friendship has proven true. At the time, she was undergoing chemotherapy at St. Vincent’s Hospital, also known as “St. Victim’s Hospital”, due to constant allegations of corruption. It was a dark era for all of us. There were times when I thought that Alice might literally die in my arms. Soon it was obvious that she would have to go home to heal.

When Alice left, it felt so abrupt. We dropped her off at the airport, exchanged hugs that were over much too soon, and were torn asunder. A few days later, I went to music class alone, when I usually went with Alice. In fact, we were partners on a group project together. So, wildly unprepared without her help, I brought an old back-issue of Terrorizer Magazine, and asked the professor to make photocopies of the guitar tabs to Bloodstained Cross by Arch Enemy. I did my best to present my analysis to the rest of the class, and explained the chord progressions, melodic interludes, and arpeggios, and spent the rest of the day in a numb haze. I felt so depressed for several months.

I wanted something to remember Alice by. Sure, as with all my friends, we raided each other’s wardrobes on occasion, and, like ravers trading candy, everyone in the Family has a few of each other’s pendants, bracelets, rings, and trinkets. But I wanted something permanent. I wanted my first tattoo.

And so, the Family was few heads less members in Santa Fe with each passing week, as everyone moved on and moved home. And, most of our Family was dropping out. Vince and Jen stayed to graduate, but the rest of us were still going through our own journeys. But, in those few months, Coyote and Hazel were enough to fill the void. I sat still for hours, drinking beer and smoking joints with my left hand, while my bicep was tattooed with an intertwined mural of an Octopus, symbolizing hope, intelligence, and regeneration, with an Anchor, symbolizing Christian values of hope and faith (you’ll notice many of these religious anchors on Victorian tombstones, for example), plus a moon and star, symbolizing my friend’s Islamic faith, as well as tying into nautical imagery and astrological themes.

The colors are cool, in every sense of the word, incorporating color psychology and archaic mysticism. The green of the anchor symbolizes nature, and thus combined, a green anchor represents nature worship. The heavenly sky blue color of the octopus represents water, the flowing nature of reality, as well as a color of sadness. Purple is my favorite color, and also Alice’s, so it was the perfect choice for the nautical star and moon.

So, my Octopus/Anchor/Moon/Star mural symbolizes duality. Masculine and feminine, the seas and the heavens, faith and sorrow. A complex tattoo for a complex interpersonal relationship. I got the outline shortly after Alice moved back overseas. But I didn’t finish coloring it in until about a year later. Let’s just say I was going through some stuff. But then I was addicted to ink. I couldn’t stop. So a few years later, I got new tattoos, including a skeleton key, representing secrets and mysteries, as well as a heart made of a treble and a bass clef, representing my love for music. As Coyote did all of my pieces, I have only had one tattoo artist in my whole life.

I plan to add more in the future, including a lock to go with the key, and a few other surprises that will be discovered as the time comes. That’s my kind of tattoo. Well thought out, yet impulsive. Yin yang vibes, duality between order and chaos, which is a balance in and of itself. I love all of my tattoos, but I will always have a special fondness for my first. And, to this day, Alice and I still stay in touch. After all, we've been to hell and back together. Our friendship is meant to last, just like the primal forces of the sea and sky.

Summer of 2020: This ink has been part of my skin for years now!


About the Creator

Cheryl Lynn

I am a blogger and freelance journalist, specializing in music reviews, band interviews, and other entertainment related articles. I have also published poetry, fiction, and creative writing.

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    Cheryl LynnWritten by Cheryl Lynn

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