Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Indie Ink Runs Deep: Sara Rauch

I'd been tossing around the idea of blogging a tattoo series for nearly a year. I know there are websites and books out there that have been-there-done-that already, but I hadn't seen one with a specific focus on the authors and publishers of the small press community. 

After hoarding the photos and essays I've been collecting from these guys since July of 2012, and with the promise of spring peeking its deliciously sunny head out through all of this winter gloom, I decided there was no better time than now to finally unveil THE INDIE INK RUNS DEEP mini-series!

Today's indie ink comes from Sara Rauch. She is the founder and editor of Cactus Heart Press and a writer of fiction.

“i had to leave the house of self-importance
to doodle my first tattoo
realize a tattoo
 is no more permanent
than i am
and who-
ever said that life is suffering
i think they had their finger
on the pulse of joy.
ain’t the power of transcendence
the greatest
one we can employ”
—Ani DiFranco, “Shroud”

Of the several tattoos I have inked on my body, these two—the Sagittarius constellation and a woodblock print of a eucalyptus tree—were done within a few months of one another.

About a month after I got the eucalyptus tree tattoo, I left my boyfriend of three and a half years, the one everyone thought I would marry and settle down with. Six months later I fell in love with a woman. Those actions transformed the plot of my life.

For some reason, I see the tattoos as a turning point. A sort of reclamation of my body. Because in the act of inking my skin, I began to see who I was, what I wanted. I saw strength. I saw courage. I saw impermanence, and instead of frightening me, it inspired me. There is no escaping the eventuality of my body’s demise, and so I decided I might as well live with it, live in it, as best and as honestly as I could.

And so it was that I walked away from the life I’d built and began again. I’ve never looked back. Not once. That woman I fell in love with is still my partner—my number one supporter, the reason I’m able to give my life over to writing, and to running Cactus Heart.

The tattoos are a detail in my story, and an essential one—a place where transcendence snuck in.

It always sort of surprises me, when someone grabs my arm, or touches my shoulder, and says, “What does this tattoo mean?”

A smattering of stars. A framed eucalyptus branch. Images I had inked into my skin many years ago, for no better reason than I liked them. I thought them lovely.

I’m often tempted to say to those curious questioners: They don’t mean anything. Sometimes art is just art.

But that would be a lie.


  1. Great post. I'm looking forward to more from this column!

    I don't know why, but I'm always surprised at how healing and transformative tattoos can be.