Katelyn Long’s “the small talk:” or why you should ask Katelyn where she is from if you meet her

Katelyn Long is so far the only person we know who has connections to the Lexington, Cincinnati, and Boulder Tattoo Projects.

Katelyn wanted to participate in the Lexington Tattoo Project when we launched it almost three years ago. Because at the time she was a student of Transylvania University, where the two of us teach, she was automatically ineligible for participation (we had only 2 rules that disqualified people; being a Transylvania student was one of them). That she was also a babysitter for us and gave our kids swimming lessons did not help her :).

Then the Cincinnati Tattoo Project happened, but Katelyn heard about it a bit late. So she got on the waiting list…until someone backed out!

Significantly, Katelyn just graduated from Transylvania and is headed to graduate school at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Here is Katelyn’s story:

“I was born at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati in 1992. We lived in Cincinnati for a year before my family moved just south of the Ohio river, in that part of Kentucky where people say they’re from Cincinnati. I suppose I never realized how important home was to me until I moved to Lexington to start college. The majority of my family still lives in Cincinnati and I usually see them only around Christmas time. I almost always miss the WEBN fireworks because the first day of school is always the next morning.  I miss ice-skating in Fountain Square, because (sorry, Lexington) Triangle Park just isn’t the same.

These are all things I realize I love about the area I am from, things I never really appreciated until I moved farther away. I now know never to take them for granted. I also know that the last stop to get a Cincinnati-style three-way is the Skyline in Dry Ridge, KY.

One of the reasons I really liked the phrase ‘the small talk:’ is because that’s how everyone starts to know each other, through small talk. One of the topics always covered is where you’re from. Right next to my phrase are four little bees I drew to symbolize the bee farm I grew up on. Where I grew up had such an impact on where I am today, and that was a good enough reason for me to permanently get it inked into my skin (though my mom might not agree). I now have a permanent reminder of the city I was so fortunate to live in. I love sharing my story of the meaning behind ‘the small talk:’. This fall, when I move to Boulder, Colorado for graduate school, I can’t wait to share my story with the people there. Maybe I’ll even be lucky enough to meet people from the Boulder Tattoo Project and they can tell me their stories too.”

Katelyn Long

Katelyn Long’s “the small talk:” (photograph by Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova)

Elizabeth Rohr’ “back away”

“This is Elizabeth Rohr checking in—smiling as I write this! I first heard of the Boulder Tattoo Project from the mother of the kids I worked for as a nanny and immediately got on board! This is how I have been living my life for the past many years, intuitively and from the heart!

I had toyed with the idea of getting another tattoo, but nothing really inspired me—so I was ripe and ready! I had always imagined a tattoo on my lower back—back away!

I moved to Boulder last year after living on the road for three years, following my heart, hearing the invitations and the need for my presence around the world. I came here to learn and to teach. In the summer of 2012, I knew it was my turn to pick where I wanted to land. I knew I could actually land and be supported! Boulder had been one of my stops since 2009 and I had fallen in love; I hadn’t want to leave and yet I knew I had to when I was called back to Cincinnati.

So in 2012 I headed West and came here to stay. I love the people, the land, the climate, the possibilities, the abundance, the food. For the first time in my life I can be me fully, without worrying how others will accept me—we are all a little weird here! Boulder embodies the consciousness I now carry!

The flood interrupted my ability to pick a phrase in a timely fashion … by the time I got around to picking a phrase, there were not many left. I saw ‘back away’ and it felt the most true!

So ‘back away’ is what I chose. It resonated with me because during my years of soul travel, I have learned to stand in my power. I have also learned that love doesn’t always sound and feel sweet and soft—sometimes love says ‘back away.’ Or, as I sometimes say, ‘Back off, bugaloo!’

I love Boulder, I love who I am becoming here, I love the poem, and I am so honored to be a part of a love poem to Boulder. I am proud to wear it on my body!

I get that the walk for me now is to totally embody all that I have learned over the last few years. I embody the love of Boulder with my tattoo!

Thank you, Chelsea. Thank you, all, who made this possible. Thank you, Boulder.”

Elizabeth Rohr

Elizabeth Rohr’s “back away”

Teri Moody’s “your guardian”

“I have had a connection to Boulder from my teenage years until now. One of my fondest memories will always be of attending the ‘Monsters of Rock’ concerts at Folsom Field in the early 80s. Boulder was the ‘in’ place to spend time in my teens. At that time, I never knew that I would spend the better part of my adult life working and living here. I started working for the US Postal Service after serving in the Army for 8 ½ years and came to Boulder in 1993. I continue to work here and have met many wonderful people who are dear friends to me still. The connections I have made because of Boulder are ones that I will always cherish.

I first heard about the Boulder Tattoo Project on NPR while driving home with some friends from a meeting. I thought, ‘What a strange reason to get a tattoo.’ But after hearing about the idea, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more, so of course I went home and looked up the website to find out more. After learning more about the artwork and the inspiration behind it, I emailed right away to see if I could still be a part of it and was very excited to find out that there was still space.

I’m not a stranger to tattoos. I got my first shortly after joining the Army and now, at age 50, have more than twenty of them, with more planned. The tattoos I have are all inspired by my spirituality and so I tried to get a phrase that would go along and blend in with my current state of mind. The first three I requested were taken quickly and so were the next three.  Feeling discouraged, I searched the list of remaining phrases again—and then I found it:  ‘your guardian.’

When I think about Boulder, one of the first things that come to mind is ‘tree hugging dirt worshipers.’ Well . . . I am one of them. That is one of the things that has always made me feel a close connection to Boulder. People really seem to care . . . about the environment . . . about the city . . .and about each other. At least this is how I have experienced it. Many Boulderites look for connections . . . to the earth and to each other. That is why it has always felt like a very special place to me. It doesn’t take long to get from the full city experience into nature. Leaving the cement behind is one of my favorite pass-times . . .  Boulder is a great place to experience the beauty that Colorado has in store for those who seek it.

I placed my phrase right above my Gaia/Mother Earth tattoo as a reminder that the Earth is our guardian, as we are hers. I am happy to have been a part of this project and to have added an additional connection with Boulder and with all of the people involved in this artwork.”

Teri Moody

Teri Moody’s “your guardian”

Kristen McCormac’s “close to tundra”

Tundra dwells wherever high places dream
In vivid tones, those elements play.
The precious pulse of earth and sky stream
through like some divine whisper, a song of
little separation.

Here there is a sweetness that gifts the
heartiest her passage of survival.
Learning always to adapt and evolve. Return
again to a more primal essence.
Distill back down.

Cloaked in the beauty of simplicity and a strength
so certain,
This is a place of awe,
Rugged, fragile and wise.
It pulses with a knowing whose tenacity was
imprinted from the beginning.

In this landscape of spirit, high above the
place you expect green life to grow, only the
most patient of visions come to manifest.
Like some valiant right of evolution, the
force of life battles upward with a fierce

The sweeping winds, a bone deep cold,
That vision lays dreaming in the dark under
frozen earth.
When the time is right a potent will calls her
to awaken and head toward the sun.

Given just enough light and protection to make
it all possible,
When she rises she wastes no time.
Her bloom magnificent
Her petals precious and rare
Her existence so profound the heart of
compassion is born with a scream.

A mandala of nature beyond the claim of man.
Nature’s harsh embrace sculpted her into
something more resilient.
So near the sky her wilderness reigns untouched.

A language of mystery talks through this

desolate expanse.
Meadows of wildflowers hum to the sun, blankets
of stars sing back in the night.
This poetry is reawakened by a space that truly
Heaven speaks
Vajra sky to life below,
Find your truth here, be free.

Your footprint sealed in the earth like an altar
of raw simplicity,
Each step a kiss and a prayer,
You just another element brought to the quiet of
these far up lands to dance with an ancient
light and the impulse of survival.

Invoking such a strength always near, her
presence like some transcendent friend,
Wherever high places dream, you are close to
This is the Way, now fired in the kiln for the
path ahead.

Kristen McCormack

Kristen McCormack’s “close to tundra”