• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • May 19, 2017 in Columnists

    Big, bright, colorful, sassy… kinda chunky and oddly-shaped

    My just-finished Mother’s Day tattoo!

    “What is that on your arm?”

    I’ve been getting a lot of that lately, and I just smile and extend my forearm, adorned with a brand new colorful and convoluted tattoo, and reply (because I have a latent sadistic streak), “Can you guess?” — knowing full well they can’t. I even tease them along: “You’ve seen it on my Facebook and Instagram a million times!”

    “A skinny Africa?”




    “A caterpillar having an orgasm?”


    (Those were actual guesses.)

    Then I hold up a cell phone photo of my big old horse, sticking his big old nose over the fence — his customary greeting — and chuckle when they “see it.” Omigod! It’s his nose! Or, more accurately, the big white snip on his big old nose, right between his nostrils.

    “Well, hello there!”

    Everybody loves Penn’s nose. I’ve even seen pictures of that nose on other people’s Instagram feeds! Something about that big, probing nose just makes people smile. It’s so friendly and curious.

    Penn’s nose was one of the first things my husband noticed when I introduced them. Of course, it’s hard not to notice when a head the size of a suitcase thrusts right into your tummy, demanding attention. Penn’s not a horse that just stands there and waits to be petted. He’s assertive, like a cat. A cat gives you a head-boop to cue you that it’s time to shower her with attention. A head-boop from a 1,800 pound nearly 17-hand high horse, however, could knock you right on your butt.

    My husband, not being a horse person, didn’t know the proper term for the white marking (snip), and commented that he loves Penn’s “schnozzle” which made me chuckle, because it almost sounds like the correct word — muzzle — with a little Joe flair. It fits. Now, I call it a schnozzle too. Propriety be damned.

    Joe also commented that Penn’s snip is nearly identical to the outline of Lake Berryessa (or Berryhumpty, as he calls it… Joe is a fountain of verbal silliness) and I had to agree. It looks a lot like the lake graphic on Berryessa Brewing Company’s logo. Google that graphic, and you’ll get a pretty good idea of the shape of Penn’s snip. And also, my tattoo.

    But there’s so much more than shape. Instead of solid white, the snip is made of colorful crystals… bright, saturated chakra colors, with the unmistakable tiny adornments — an arc of dots and little wings — that are my daughter’s signature. Yes, my daughter has changed career courses and has become a tattoo artist, with a shop poised to open in Berkeley. (Shameless Mommy plug: The shop is called Magnetic Arts, and it’s on Facebook and Instagram, if you’re curious.)

    Now, if you’re like me, you’re wondering why a gal with not one but two concurrent college degrees — one in fine art and another in visual communication design — who was well on her graphic design career path in San Francisco would just chuck it all and start over on her own path. And, such a seemingly odd and difficult path as well. Trust me, I wondered a lot myself. Out loud. In exasperation.

    For starters, she informed me that her mentor makes more money in one half-day than I do in a week.




    But the heart of the matter is… this is what she loves. Tattooing is her bliss. From the time she was old enough to hold a crayon, Janine spent hours upon hours just drawing. Now she’s returned to that, but the drawings are called “flash” pieces — a collection of original tattoo artwork. In particular, she loves drawing free-form crystals, so I asked her to turn Penn’s snip into a crystal.

    This is the greeting I get every morning… and within seconds, I don’t care about anything other than that moment. Horses provide sanity in an insane world.

    On Mother’s Day, I watched as a rainbow-colored crystal emerged on my forearm, in that beloved, whimsical shape that greets me every morning and reminds me that life is better when lived and savored in the moment, surrounded by hills and sunshine and horses, than staring at the TV screen or computer monitor and cursing the latest governmental insanity over which I have no control. At the barn, there’s no politics. No past, no future, just the present moment, filled with serenity, solace, sanity and… HORSES!!! That’s all right there, in that tattoo. But, there’s so much more.

    Besides symbolizing what mornings at the barn offer, in that tattoo I see not merely my daughter’s amazing artwork, but her determination and courage to forge her own path, regardless of criticism, challenges or obstacles. And open a shop in Berkeley at 29? Holy cow! Who does that? I mean, “who” that isn’t blessed with family riches to gamble? All from scratch! Certainly not me. In my tattoo, I see child surpassing parent… becoming so much more than I could ever be. I see… awe and wonder… for my daughter.

    I also see friendship and miracles, because it was my friend who brought me and Penn together and reignited a flame that I’d all but extinguished, and the whole experience has been, and is, a miracle. I also see “support” because my husband said he’d have my back if I fell short financially.

    I see… love.

    I also see sass. When I told Joe where the tattoo would be, he furrowed his concerned, conservative engineer brow and commented, “But people will see it and they won’t know what it is.” His unspoken subtext was that this big, bright, oddly-shaped figure will make other people uncomfortable.


    If it’s so bold that it makes other people nervous, that seals it. Fire up the tattoo gun!

    Because I’m also big, bright, colorful, and kinda chunky and oddly-shaped. And if that makes you uncomfortable, well, move along. I have zero interest in compromising myself to make other people comfortable. In fact, I love to give people a psychological nudge just to see how well they regain their balance.

    Just a little push… like a big old schnozzle giving you a “hello there” boop.

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