Mariah Hamang’s “you settled here”

“I first heard about the Boulder Tattoo Project in March 2013, when the BTP was still in its infancy. Immediately, within minutes, I e-mailed Chelsea Pohl and got my name on the list to be involved. I had lived in Boulder less than a year, having moved from Chicagoland in August 2012 to start graduate school at CU (what we call the University of Colorado). At that time, I already knew how important Boulder was for me. Boulder had already become a symbol of a fresh start, of sloughing off the ruts and stale habits and old baggage we accrue when we spend too much time in our hometown. With its reliable and omnipresent but ever-changing mountainsides, its friendly nomadic street performers, and its clanking of the counterculture fighting to the surface, Boulder embodied the catharsis of a new setting, of the therapeutic different geography that we challenge ourselves with and crave, those of us who have a hard time settling.

I went to all the early BTP meet-and-greets, sustaining a borderline intolerable level of excitement from March through November 1st  when needle met skin. I read the poem for the first time the day it was released in Boulder Weekly and I was in shock! I thought: ‘Boulder Zodiac’? I’m admittedly an enormous astrology nut, and my largest tattoo is a tribute to my sun sign, Gemini. I was already 100% sympatico with the poem. But there was one phrase in particular that I clamped onto: ‘you settled here.’ It was an elegant, ideal description of my relationship with Boulder. (Yes, I am the kind of person who believes you can have a relationship with the city where you live.) I knew that if I ever ended up leaving Boulder, Boulder would always be the place where I ‘settled.’ It would always embrace me. It would always be the home that had adopted me and nourished me and put me at ease. (Have you seen how bright and clear the stars are? Or the blue shadows that striate the mountains when the sun falls behind them at sunset? ) I want to remember this place permanently, to forever have a small piece of it with me to the grave.

I decided to sponsor the Boulder Tattoo Project. Not only was I was infatuated with the phrase I chose (and sponsors got first choice), but more importantly, I myself am a poet, and I was enthralled with the intimate way that poetry would involve my body in this equally personal and collective tattoo. I’m an advocate for expressive art in every form. I have more than a few other tattoos and such, and to invest in a body modification project of this caliber and to therefore help give it more scope or significance was definitely an easy decision for me to make. I was excited to support the project and to be a part of something much larger than myself that would divide and flow but stay connected as we all split ways, after we all came together briefly in the same place to share a moment of our lives.

I chose to place the tattoo on my left chest, over my heart. I think the reason for that is self-explanatory. But it also lies a little deeper. I mentioned that I moved to Boulder for graduate school—I study linguistics. Reference and ambiguity are big themes in language studies, where I live. I was drawn to the phrase ‘you settled here’ not only for me having settled in Boulder (the obvious initial motivation), but also because of its open interpretation. It’s as if the tattoo is speaking to YOU, a family member or a new friend or an interested stranger, you who settled here on my heart, however fleetingly. And I think that’s the most essential and beautiful component of this tattoo—the meaning always changes, depending on who’s looking and why.”

Mariah Hamang

Mariah Hamang’s “you settled here”

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