A little bird told me…

…that tattoos aren’t cheep.

Sometimes it feels like I’m carrying a bird, ehm, a burden of course – clearly a Freudian slip because as you might have guessed from the title, bird is the word and isn’t the English language so fascinating considering these two words rhyme? #englishpronounciation I take it you already know the famous poem by Geroge Bernhard Shaw, so on with the subject! I wanna introduce you to a very specific bird, outside of biological realms, yet skin deep, (l)inked to me for all eternity. This is its story. And so it goes.

Birds and books

Birds are one of the most fascinating creatures in art and literature. Two literary birds had particularly affected me in some way or the other, and despite the fact I read one of them in the bleak December, Nevermore was not one of them. Fritz Zorn’s Mars has already been mentioned here some time ago – you can read it up here in case you have forgotten or found this blog only recently. Till today, it remains one of the most intense books I’ve ever read. And it’s even more intense if you sit down with some friends, a bottle of red, and read it out loud. Celebrate every sentence in its blank brutality. The darkness of the words and the (fictional) reality they create are a look beyond the abyss of humanity. We live in a world that shares a terrifiying amount of things from dystopian novels. Maybe that’s why I like them so much – it is still lighter reading than the news. And lighter than what’s going on in my heart.

Birds and books are a more intimate relationship than the birds and the bees.
Haruki Murakami: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

On an intellectual level. Take Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. First of all, love the title. Most definitely better than the German “Mister Aufziehvogel”. That on just doesn’t flow. Or rather, fly, in this case. Because bird, you know? Secondly, the opening sequence is among my favourite literary scenes ever and one with high Identifikationspotenzial, involving yet another bird, a stealing magpie, to be precise. Click here to read some more about what Rossini has to do with Murakami and me (and find an original pasta recipe from a real nonna).

These two very different books have two things in common: a bird on the cover, and the fact that you can open either of them at any random page, and you’re sure to find a memorable quote and/or meaningful sentence (unless you end up with one of Murakami’s really weird description of sex scenes. His birds and the bees are gewöhnungsbedürftig to say the least.)

Anyway, this is the novel that got me hooked on Murakami. The wind-up bird book cover ended up as my office desktop wallpaper when I was still at the theatre – because it was all rewind, function, rewind, function, repeat, repeat, repeat. And it nearly made it onto my skin. Why? The wind-up bird symbolizes the struggle of a free spirit trapped in the fixed schemes of a society where you have to pull yourself together, wind-up the mechanic for functional mode and do it all over again until it breaks. In the end, I decided against that. And I’m glad, in hindsight, because I broke shortly after. And I’ve been malfunctioning ever since. No need of a constant reminder. I got a bird tattoo, though. A different one. And Zorn and Murakami were some of the inspiration behind it. One might call them its founding f(e)athers. The question was of course: Where would the proverbial eagle land? Where would it settle and nestle on my body? And then: What kind of bird in which pose? Without feather ado I proceeded to put my ideas onto paper and started drawing – and discovered: my drawing skills are mediocre at best and I became more and more frustrated with what was in my head and what was on paper.

Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all.
Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.

However, with much persistance and determination, I managed some decent motives after all. They were still drafts and I was willing to let Jessi, employee at TCs, refine the chosen one into a finalized design.

She immediately grasped what I had imagined, et voilà, two days later, she had transformed my clumsy attempt of a bird into a skillful and terrific piece of art:

See that tiny speck of blue? And isn’t the whole design simply amazing? So glad I let her do her thing. And then let her do the actual thing. Before the needle started humming, however, bird product placement had to be done: I have this rather prominent beauty patch on my left side and we considered all the options – placing the bird before, behind, above, below it – and all of them were meh at best. So what was the logical thing to do? Working it into the design.And so I was ready for two dreadful hours of pain. The pain is less painful and more tedious. A constant scratching and nagging and rapping and tapping at my chamber door – damn you, Nevermore, get out of here!! – and you get into this sort of carthasis, enduring and almost meditating in the pain until at some point you have die Nase gestrichen voll and you’re jolly well fed up and you start getting really annoyed by the needle’s sound, by the dull persistant pain, and you keep thinking “looks done to me, what the f*** is she still tattooong for?” And of course it is not done yet and you know it. But it feels nice to be mad at someone else and blame them for your inconvenience.

A bird tattoo is not cheep. But worth it.

So yeah, that was my brief feathered tale. Needless to add, you have to tweet this, just for the pun of it.

Sleep, sheep. Babe is Watching.

DISCLAIMER: I simply wanted to post this late night sketch with a few words and then a few became many. Whoops.

I remember when I watched Babe, one of my all time favourites, for the very first time, on a VHS cassette. Babe, the brave and heroic shepherd pig with a heart of gold – stunning the whole nation when simply trying to make his dog mamma and itsFarmer Hogget proud. If you haven’t seen it, do it now. Your heart will lighten up. It is so wholesome.

Within the movie, we learn that all sheep have some sort of international codex. Say the words, and all sheep will listen to you.

Mäh, ihr Schafe, Mäh, ihr Schafe

Bleibet treu eurem Glauben, eurer Rasse, auch im Schlafe

Auch im Schlafe

Mäh, ihr Schafe

Well, I grew up with three small flocks of fluffy animal clouds. And believe me, I tried it. Many times.

Sheep are wonderful beings. Not only are they fluffy (not quite Alpaca but still a solid 7 out of 10 on the fluffometer), they also taste great – yes, we ate them, and I despite us being rather poor, we were certainly spoiled with our meat. It came quite as a shock when I moved out and had to discover how expensive lamb is and that a student’s life and budget didn’t allow for it to be my everyday meat. Even today, I am still lam(b)enting this great culinary loss I had literally taken for granted as a kid. Sheeps are also great weathermenwools. Whenever it’s raining, look at your sheep and check out what they are doing. If its a short shower, they will seek shelter. If its rainy season, wenn sich’s einregnet, as we say in Baden, they won’t bother going under cover. Eventually, they have to get out there anyway. You see? A woolproof weather forecast, every single time. Impressive, eh? No wonder lifestock are called Nutztiere in German, utility animals.

Sheep are much more than that, though. Some of ours had very distinct personalities. Especially the three rams. Aristoteles, Brutus, and Cicero. The eldest, Aristotle, had a deep dark unfathomable face. He was always calm and observing and radiated so much authority, his flock would follow him blindly. Brutus on the other hand was exactly that: brutal. His favourite pastime was running up and ramming his forehead against the stables and he wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to anyone approaching his harem. His forehead was all swollen and rough and red and bulky and he looked like a proper hooligan. A wooligan, hehe. I for my part wouldn’t go near him. I was properly scared and rightly so. Cicero, though young and cocky, was far less aggressive, playfully testing how far he could go before my Dad and Dolly, our German shepherd, would put him back in his place. With growing age, he became more philosophical, just like Aristotle. Telling names, all three of them.

In hindsight, I am eternally grateful my Dad forced me to be a part-time shepherd every other morning before school. I didn’t transform into a natural early riser till my early twenties, so believe me when I say, I loathed it. On the other hand: Mary Julia had a little lamb, Mara, that needed to be fed with a bottle. Whenever Mara heard me coming, there was an excited Baaaaah from the crowd, followed by some shuffling and there she was, running along to greet me, wagging her tail, like a dog. I remember, when I was sick once and couldn’t go see her, I was so upset, my Mum decided to bring her home, into my brother’s and my bedroom. Needless to say, 9-year-old me was delighted. 2-month-old Mara on the other hand was perhaps a little too excited and peed all over my brother’s English workbook he had left lying around on the floor (for further tipps on how to educate your children to tidy up their stuff, follow me). Practical as she was and unaware of any sense of embarrassment, my Mum wrote a letter to his teacher, explaining the rather odd circumstances and asking whether it was possible to order a new book. A year later, when I started secondary school I had the same teacher. As he read out my name, he looked at me, raised his eyebrows and said: „So you’re the little sister. How’s your lamb doing?” Still a better excuse than the dog ate my homework.

When my Dad fell ill, we sadly had to give up our flocks. They now live happily ever after with a nomadic shepherd and it’s comforting to imagine that Mara got to see the whole wide world.

And to end this post on a less melancholical note and come back to our key words “sleep” and “sheep”: As a kid, my favourite place to nap was downstairs in our sort-of-living room, on a sheepskin right in front of the piano. Sometimes I was so comfortably snuggled up, I refused to leave and would stay there all night. It’s one of my few thoroughly happy childhood memories. Bliss. Hope my pencil sheep has peaceful dreams. I count on it.