When I was growing up, I remember my grandmother saying that she looked “like the wreck of the Hesperus” whenever she felt disheveled, as in: “Oh honey, don’t take my picture right now, I look like the wreck of the Hesperus.”
It’s a phrase I have always loved, have never personally heard anyone else say, and have never had any real idea what it means, aside from the gorgeous metaphor of “I look like a shipwreck.” Recently I’ve learned that “The Wreck of the Hesperus” is an epic poem and cautionary tale by Longfellow, but for me it belongs to my grandmother Hazel.
For my new tattoo I decided to marry the idea that “my hair looks like the Wreck of the Hesperus” to my feelings of mental imbalance and anxiety, which have been especially acute lately. My mind is a ship being tossed by a stormy sea.
But I also wanted the image to be positive. The lady is smiling and the ship is upright, as I felt it might be bad luck to carry the image of a shipwreck on my body. And as I like to keep my tattoos vaguely symmetrical, Hesperus (a nod to my grandmother) is the mirror to my lion tattoo (a nod to my grandfather).
Sidebar: I just discovered — thank you Wikipedia — that there is a “Wreck of the Hesperus” reference in Groucho Marx’s song “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.” I’m losing it. Things really come together, don’t they?
The image at the top of this post was taken right after the tattoo’s completion; below is about a day later in natural light.
And because progress photos are fun, a glimpse at the tattoo before shading:
Earlier tattoo pictures and stories:
The lion who knocks (January 2021)
A Halloween tattoo for Hazel (October 2020)
My pandemic tattoo: the quail (September 2020)
Baba Yaga’s house in color (January 2020)
Baba Yaga’s house, line work (December 2019)
Nesting doll (August 2019)
Cuckoo clock, color (April 2019)
Finch and satellite (February 2019)
Cardinal (November 2018)
Cuckoo clock, line work (September 2018)
Lavender and key (August 2018)