Less than one month ago, I got my first tattoo. I knew I wanted a phoenix. I knew that the image was deeply meaningful to me. But since I made the decision, the image’s symbolism, resonance, and timelessness has blown me away.
The image of the phoenix has been with me for a long time. My very first email address was phoenixdreams@... (and what a preteen girl email address it was!). I was always drawn to the firebird, to its bursting into flame, disintegration into ash, and rising, ever rising, to soar again.
It’s a message of resilience. Resurrection. The cycle of death and rebirth and the recognition that nothing truly dies but is instead transformed.
It’s the idea that “trial by fire” is a meaningless phrase, because fuck that, I am the fire.
It’s the reminder that no matter what is going on outside of me, there is a flame within me that is unquenchable, sacred, pure.
Many people have described this idea before. Albert Camus wrote, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
The Radiance Sutras remind us, “The roar of joy that set the worlds in motion is reverberating in your body and the space between all bodies. Beloved, listen.”
And in her poem, “The Phoenix Again,” May Sarton says, “It struggles now alone Against death and self-doubt, But underneath the bone The wings are pushing out.
And one cold starry night Whatever your belief The phoenix will take flight Over the seas of grief
To sing her thrilling song To stars and waves and sky For neither old nor young The phoenix does not die.”
Maybe it’s Albert Camus’s “invincible summer.” Or May Sarton’s “thrilling song.” Or the Radiance Sutra’s “roar of joy.”
But whatever it is for you, whatever spark you catch a glimmer of when you slow down and look inward—Beloved, listen.
Gratitude to Sacred Siren Tattoo in Minneapolis.