Still Untattooed

“Take a look at this,” I say. I hold up a photocopy of a drawing of a young, tattooed Hawaiian man from 1778.


Half his handsome face is covered with tattoos and he sports a Mohawk. “My son’s hair looks exactly like that.”


The ladies laugh. There are two tables and a total of eleven of us retired-aged women. We are piecing together facets of our souls in a SoulCollage class at the Keaau Senior Center (minimum age 55, so I’m 3 years qualified), cutting images out of magazines and gluing them onto 5”x7” pieces of cardboard.

We are making personalized decks of cards for ceremonial drawing at a later time. Like drawing Tarot Cards.

One of the women didn’t hear me say “hair” and is clearly shocked that I’d have such a thoroughly tattooed son.

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“Your son?” she says, and I reassure her that he is still untattooed. Although most young people in Hawaii seem to have at least one. Maybe it’s just more obvious because more skin shows here.

It makes me think.  Wonder what I’d get if I were to get one.

Everyone is still listening as they cut and paste. Lovely music plays softly in the background from the teacher’s tape player, and we can hear the ceramics class next door, through the huge screens, wedging and slapping clay.

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I look at the image. 236 years ago, this young man sat proudly for Captain James Cook’s artist, John Webber.

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In the book I photocopied, the author wrote about how fascinated the famous captain and his officers were with the differences between the curvilinear patterns of the New Zealand Maoris and the strict linear patterns of the Hawaiians. This confident young man had status, the book said. They cut the designs into the skin and rubbed vegetable dye or soot or squid ink over the wounds.

Since we moved to Hawaii nine months ago, I’ve introduced myself a lot. What do I do? Who am I? A writer? A baker? A candlestick maker? Much of my time lately is spent with my new gas (propane) stove, the nicest stove I’ve ever had (I’ve always had electric), baking cookies and muffins.

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Still, identifying myself stressed me until this last week when I asked the Bearded One, who has no tattoo and has never had one whit of trouble identifying himself to the world, how he answers the question. Who wants to know? he said. And that was an epiphany right there. The question is about the questioner! Not me. It’s about who I am at this moment, the relevant stuff with this particular person, and finding the connection between us.

“Facial tattoos scare me,” I say to my classmates. “The other tattoos are a fine way to mark and identify yourself, but I don’t like needles, thankyouverymuch.” Nods of agreement all around the table.

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“As to what I’d get if I were inclined – a labyrinth”.


Chartres Labyrinth

The Labyrinth Lady – a lovely, tall, red-haired 60-year-old woman, who also happens to be the Soul Collage teacher – smiles as she walks by. She bought an acre lot a half mile from the ocean almost twenty years ago. She told me she was obsessed with life’s paths. It took three months of full-time labor, but, by herself, she built a magnificent Chartres Labyrinth.

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She opens it to the public frequently, and I was invited to join the group who weeds it and then walks it together every week.

Photo credit Stanley Gapol Labyrinth of Christie Wolf

Photo credit Stanley Gapol; Labyrinth of Christie Wolf


The rules of walking the labyrinth and cutting and pasting images are similar. You don’t have to be silent. You can crack a joke. You can stop and smell the flowers or examine a plant or straighten a fallen-over statuette or chime. You just walk the path. With respect.  It’s not a maze. It’s a circular, spiral path looping and layering back and forth yet all the while progressing toward the center.

“That speaks to me,” one of my labyrinth friends says, pointing to two images that I’ve just cut out of magazines and glued onto cardboard – a stained glass church window and a witchy Wonder Woman in a blue bikini and stained-glass blue body paint.

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I smile and keep gluing until the Labyrinth Lady announces break time. Then I haul out my bag. “Cookies!” I say, and lay them out for my new friends. We can all think about it, I suppose, but for now we are still untattooed.

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40 responses to “Still Untattooed

  1. I feel a mass tattooing “event” (and a new mercedes) coming on for one group of adventurous ladies willing to go out on a limb! We now wear tattoos as little reminders to ourselves of something that we want to be reminded about (I wonder if you can get erasable tattoos so that I could get one printed on my stomach and keep adding things to it to remember to put on each fortnights shopping list?) but back when that young Hawaiian man was tattooed, it actually really meant something and was a rite of passage between childhood and maturity. I dare say that mohawk meant something more than a trend back then as well. How we have changed and how far away from our ancestors and their obvious directions we have drifted. I love that you are able to take classes in all kinds of spiritual and educational things Christi girl. I would be in that clay class, throwing and splatting and (probably swearing under my breath) trying to mould nature to my own desires. We all express ourselves in different ways. Our creativity and our ethos get exposed with our worldly possessions and what we choose to collect and reject. This is a really lovely post Christi, you are now officially Hawaiian and that gas stove is AWESOME! I truly love that revelation about “who I am depends on who I am with” OH thats true! I never thought about that before. The person who is asking could care less about the bits of you that don’t pertain to them and their lives so you are always something new to someone. How exciting! Please thank The B.O. for his collective wisdom and confidence for us all. I have learned something new today and it is only 5.37am 🙂

    • Tattoos probably are expensive, but what do I know? 🙂 No new Mercedes around here! The tattoos definitely were rites of passage and full of meaning….and actually I do think that many young people use them that way now, too. Who knows? We all look for ways to express ourselves and our life journey. I took a pottery class in college and it was one of the most wonderful classes I took — hands on. 🙂 Time away from the books. One of the labyrinth ladies is a professional potter (makes money at it) and I might throw a pot yet. The B.O. is wise sometimes. I’ll tell him you think so, too. 🙂 Hugs and love from Hawaii, Christi

      • I love the idea of making pots from clay and will one day take a course (if I can find one close). My brain is set on spinning that alpaca wool at the moment and I just found out that there is a group of ladies that meet at the Deviot hall (about 2km away from here) and spin with spinning wheels once every second thursday…looks like I might be able to learn! Next to find an affordable spinning wheel… Don’t you love the thrill of something new? 🙂

      • I love the idea of you schmoozing with spinning ladies, and I hope to hear about it in your blog some day. Do I love the thrill of something new? Yes! I like some old stuff, too. But I’ve got it down to a couple of boxes. 🙂

      • Stevie-boy spotted them at the Deviot hall as we were driving past the other day. He wanted to stop the car, jump out and race over and ask them but they all looked old and easily terrified and a Stevie-boy on a mission might be a scary thing to elderly spinners ;). I will find out through the right channels and after talking to a lady that I met through a facebook page that I follow (old hippies 😉 ) I met another lady (her old neighbour of 20 years that moved to just over the rive to me!) who told me about the spinning groups. She also told me that most of the ladies have 2 – 3 spinning wheels and many of them would be interested in selling me one. WOOT! 🙂

      • You’re in the zone. 🙂
        p.s. I love the image of Steve-boy racing by a pack of elderly spinners and taking notes.

      • Elderly ladies love Stevie-boy but THEY have to approach him first otherwise they are like snails and turtles and echidnas and they curl up in terror 😉

      • Maybe when he hits 50, they’ll recognize him as harmless. 🙂

      • Nope, he plans on growing his hair longer and taking on a more “windswept and interesting” aura 😉 Think “wild man of Borneo” and you are almost there 😉

  2. Aloha, Christi!
    I love Hawaii and I have never been there. The people you’ve met seem to have so much depth. I’m so excited you have new, interesting friends and fun activities! I really don’t recommend getting a tattoo. I got one as a rebellious teenager (a tiny heart on my ankle) and I would have it removed if it didn’t leave such an ugly scar. Your new stove and teapot are GORBEOUS! I love your view. Take good care, sweet Christi! Mahalo, Love, love from Susan

    • Aloha Susan, and you make a great point about regret. Who wants to get a tattoo removed!? Arg. I have met a lot of lovely, thoughtful people here. Something about being so isolated, maybe. There are just 180,000 people on the island. We run into each other regularly. 🙂 I love my red teapot, too. lol Come to Hawaii, Susan, and I’ll take you swimming. Hugs and love, Christi

  3. WonderWomanFull!!!

  4. p.s. – You got action figures on your new stovetop? Who are they?

  5. Tattoos are very much in my field of vision at the moment. My friend, a 40 year old Samoan has just undergone a real initiation process. He recently had the entire [I mean ENTIRE] lower half of his body tattooed. It was done in the traditional way and took four weeks. For four weeks, every day he had to mentally and spiritually prepare himself for hours of searing pain. He went into shock on a couple of occasions. Some days he had to call it off soon after it started – he simply couldn’t be there. Once he got an infection and had to retire for three or four days. It was a feat of heroism, bravery and endurance. The tattoo is stunningly beautiful and indicates he is meeting his destiny. I am so in awe of this man – he is my hero!

    My girls and I often speak about getting tatooes – none of us has yet. When I was 50 I was going to get one for my 56th, then my 50th, then my 65th. Now I know I won’t – but it is a fun thought – what would you have and where would you put it and why? I think the why is important.

    BO is quite right – ‘who wants to know?’ It is nothing to do with us and everything to do with the asker. When we first arrived in England one of the questions my daughters were asked was ‘what does your father do?’ it upset them no end. Then we realised that answering that question allowed the asker to place the girl in her proper class, based on the type of work her father did. [Lower, middle, upper] Being from NZ we were all appalled by this unconscious class system that operated even when the person asking had no idea what they were doing. So ‘who’s asking and why?’ is a good question to ask yourself 🙂

    I love the way you get involved in lovely groups – that sounds like a fabulous exercise to be doing! I bet your cards will be just wondrous when done.

    • Oh my. Four weeks. Shock. Infection. This is serious business. I’ve heard of people adding to their tattoos over time. Your Samoan friend went through an ordeal just obtaining his mark of destiny. I guess that’s probably symbolic and empowering in itself. The WHY is what it’s all about.

      Focussing the question back on the asker, with love, requires a good sense of yourself…which I was fumbling with. Let’s find our connection, is my approach now.
      Love you, Pauline. xo

  6. A very nice stove indeed. I am the same age as you and am contemplating my first tattoo for my sixtieth birthday. If I do get one, it will have to have deep significance. Great story.

  7. 2 thoughts:
    Are you *sure* Austin doesn’t have a tattoo? 😉
    and…how about one of these?
    Mahalo for lovely tribute to our beloved labyrinth!

    • Aloha Deborah! Good point about Austin, but I’m pretty sure he’d tell me. I think. 🙂

      OMG, those leg tattoos. No thank you.

      I love the labyrinth — THANK YOU for introducing me to it and the labyrinth ladies!!!!!

  8. Christine Widman

    The first person I actually knew with a tattoo was my oldest daughter – a tiny frog above her left ankle. This was in 1990.
    I have long contemplated having “DNR” tattoo-ed in a delicate font below my left collarbone. In October I opted instead to have this “necessary-to-me” message engraved on an exquisite copper bracelet made by an artist in Flagstaff. I wear this bracelet – never taking it off – on my left wrist.
    I guess part of this decision is knowing “who I am” – and one part of who I am is a very needle phobic person. :-00000
    And Yes…part of who I am is finding the connections with & within all our human-ness. I see this every day here. It is extraordinarily amazing. Connections are everywhere.
    Even with cool stoves – our oldest daughter has a gas stove exactly like yours. I ADORE!!!! her stove….as I adore her and you, Witchy Wonder Woman.
    Hugs,hugs, hugs.

    • Aloha Christine! I love your DNR idea and I might do that yet. Some day I’ll see your bracelet. We are of like mind on DNR, as you know. A good use for a tattoo.

      And you are exactly right about knowing who you are being central to all of this. That was my other epiphany last week. 🙂 My Higher Self can acknowledge and praise me when I feel inadequate. I can be my own well of water, to some extent, and then my “identity” isn’t near so important. Life lessons at the labyrinth.

      Wow, Erin has this same Hotpoint? It’s a keeper. Love to you and Denny and the whole Widman clan. xxxxoooo

  9. My eldest son has very white skin. Over here in Australia we call i “Fab white.” It refers to a very old ad about washing powder and it’s catch cry was “It’s Fab white!” Anyway he hates his colour and has designed an elaborate tattoo to cover all of his chest and stomach. All I can say is “thank goodness he can’t afford it, yet….” 😀

    • Aloha Kym! Fab white, ha! That’s me, and the B.O., too. But he has gotten tan here. Even his SHINS are brown now.(working on the metal roof) I wear a hat. 🙂 Your son’s plan sounds like what Pauline’s Samoan friend went through. Have your son read her description…:) The labyrinth isn’t actually a maze, since you are never lost in it. But it looks like one. Hugs from Hawaii, sweet friend. Christi

  10. Oh and how amazing is that maze garden!

  11. Love the post and its elements: the labyrinth, tattoos, the gas stove (gorgeous!) and your lady friends.
    One tattoo, here: after losing my parents and sister and spending a lot of time in the drowning pool of grief, I decided to design myself a tattoo. It is a stylized letter V, similar to how I wrote it when I was single and it was my name; it is shaped much like a heart, and it stands for both my maiden (parents’ and sister’s) name and “Victory,” because I came through the transformational fire and lived to tell about it. It was done simply, line work in black ink, and resides on the back of my neck. It is only visible when I choose it to be and wear my hair up.
    I may get another someday, but this one is very personal to me. xoxoB

    • I think a tattoo would be an excellent addition to the grieving process. My sister is a grief counselor with a Seattle hospice organization and she says that they have used SoulCollage with grieving family members. Your horrific loss — parents, sister, and sister’s dear friend — in a train crash, I can imagine needing to mark yourself somehow, and the initial’s double meaning is a lovely way to do that. Thank you for sharing. Hugs from Hawaii, Christi xo

  12. I’ve got a tattoo on my upper arm of the Charlie Brown bird Woodstock saying, “Breathe.” It hurt like crap.

  13. Fantastic blog and wonderings Christi 😄. I love that garden maze, very clever.

  14. Well, Christi, several things here I’d like to ‘talk’ with you about, beginning with that labyrinth . . . but didn’t get much done today, so it will have to wait for awhile. Lots to think about here, though, so thanks. ~ Linne

  15. Smiling.

    Tattoos, no thank you, but those cookies sound wonderful and so does your class. Thanks for the grins.

    • Alys, mahalo for stopping by. I’m still grinning over Pauline’s post and your trip to get to meet her. 🙂 Lucky! Maybe the five of you will go wild and get tattoos. Not. Aloha xo

      • Christi, I am so excited about this trip. I still can’t quite believe it’s all coming together so easily.

        The others may have tattoos already and they just aren’t saying, but I plan to continue bucking the trend. 🙂

  16. Hi Christi — thanks so much for your ongoing support on my blogs — wanted to let you know that I enjoy your posts as much as ever! We are busy here divesting of a house with 15 years of things and memories — inspired by the stories of many, including you and your husband. It’s off to the mountains of NC for us … where I look forward to reading your posts on my NEW front porch.

    • Mahalo, Sherrie, and how exciting for you! I love your blogs. They are centering reminders to me of what is important, you always make me think, and I like your metaphysical yet scientific approach to it all. I hope your sorting out goes smoothly, as well as the crucial sale of the house. Hugs from Hawaii xo

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