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artwork by Thomas Gustanis

Even in the midst of this Boston heatwave, I’m starting to get excited about the appointment Hanna and I have tomorrow for our new tattoos! They will be, respectively, her fourth and my third pieces — and our first projects with our new tattoo artist, Thomas Gustanis, the husband of one of Hanna’s colleagues at the Center for the History of Medicine.

We were excited to discover Thomas was building his tattoo portfolio, as our previous artist — Ellen Murphy — left the Boston area to work at Red Rocket in New York City.

*sad face*

But! Life (and tattoo art) move on, so we’re looking forward to building on the addiction that Ellen jump-started with Thomas’ developing style.

I had my first tattoo inked to mark the completion of my graduate degrees in January 2011.

Along with Hanna, I had my second tattoo inked in celebration of our marriage in August 2012.

When the opportunity to have a third tattoo completed arose I did not have an obvious design in mind, although I new I wanted something organic. After sitting with some possible designs and placements, I’ve settled on the lovely juniper branch Thomas sketched out (above), to be inked on the back of my right shoulder. The smell of juniper in the heat of summer sunshine is one of my strongest scent-memories from childhood: it grew as wild ground cover around the cottage in Leelanau, Michigan where my family vacationed every summer, and was also a pervasive scent in Bend, Oregon, where we regularly visited my maternal grandparents when I was young. Northern Michigan and Central Oregon are both deep parts of my geographically-rooted self, and I chose this tattoo to ground those spaces and memories within my bodily self.

It was only after I had selected the tattoo subject and finalized the design with Thomas that my grandmother, Marilyn, died in Bend. But I will be sitting for the tattoo tomorrow afternoon in her memory, and in thanks for the way she helped make Oregon a part of my Homeland.

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