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Ad Astra per Aspera

Sometimes I get frustrated with painting. I've been trying to catch up on commissions, and my reference picture for this one is very dark, so I started my underpainting with a base of burnt umber. I know it will look great later on and it's part of the process, but right now, it just looks like a muddy puddle and my motivation completely disappeared. Like....zap. Nothing. Nada. I'm sure it will come back when I get into color, but for now, I need to step away from it again. So, like a responsible adult, I decided to put away my paint, clean my brushes, then booked a consultation downtown.

I left the neon-bathed warmth of the tattoo studio and stepped into the glittering afternoon air, a crisp red and purple business card in my hand marked with an appointment for the 28th. Despite the bite of a December breeze that made my nostrils sting, there was a cozy fire flickering in my chest; a warm, golden happiness that welled up inside me and spread warmth down my limbs to my fingertips and toes. There is a very specific and unique kind of euphoria that comes with getting a new tattoo, and now I had one more magical thing to look forward to after Christmas. My soul was singing and I started to whistle as I made my way back to New Hampshire Street. For a moment, I wondered if I should also book an appointment for new piercings, but then I remembered a recent incident and how small hands like to grab shiny things, plus having furbabies who always manage to step or lay on the worst places possible wouldn't help. Tattoos itch, but unlike piercings, they heal quickly and no one can  accidentally rip them out of your skin.

As I passed one of the many shops lining the street, a faded sign with yellow sunflowers caught my eye from the window of an antique shop, Kansas' state motto 'Ad astera per aspera' scrawled proudly across it in a bold, rustic white font. I paused, staring at the text for a moment, overlapped by my own dusty reflection in the glass. I may not be a born Kansan, but the motto still speaks to me in a way that feels almost like fate. Or perhaps irony- I haven't quite decided which yet. Oddly enough, with all my tattoos, the inverse now also fits me quite well: here I was, once again using little stars to reclaim my body and to mentally help me get through a horrific hardship.

I have always loved stargazing and getting lost in the night sky. Stars are comforting, not only for the stories they hold, but also because they remind me that no matter how dark it is, there will always be light to help me navigate my way through it if I get lost. I may never be the goddess Nut, but I am enjoying emulating her through my own skin and I love how magical and pretty it makes me feel. It doesn't make anything go away, of course, but when I look at them, I suddenly feel whole and beautiful again, moreso than I can ever remember.

I tilted my head and brushed a copper curl away from my ear, hoping I didn't look too silly or conceited to any passer-bys as I admired my reflection in the glass, particularly the Neverland stars behind my ear. Discreet, but magical. It might be my favorite tattoo, sans the ones I'd wanted for the most important people in my life (Sagittarius, Gemini and, of course, Libra), and it still makes me smile whenever I look at it. I still have so many more planned out, and want to do Hydra, Pictor, and Draco next. Eventually, I also want the Northern Crown since it's a good story and I strongly relate to Ariadne, especially now that I've (perhaps) found my Dionysus. The shape of that particular constellation is a little tricky, however, so I don't know where to put it yet. I feel it would work well with curves, so perhaps wrapped around a hip or shoulder, or somewhere near my birthmark. I will have to do some sketching to see.

Standing there, it also occurred to me that I also look a bit more like my mother now, though I don't know how exactly. Our gabby girl does too, especially when comparing their baby photos. Their colors are different, of course; Mom is all earth and hazels, while our sweet little one is fire and sage, but it's still uncanny. As for myself, I'm somewhere in-between the two. We're all distinct from each other, yet an obvious continuation of the same series. That's how genetics work, of course, yet when you stop and think about it, it's truly surreal that all of our faces are all just combinations of hundreds of other people's before us while simultaneously being solely and uniquely our own. We're all just collages that have been compiled and built over centuries, and yet each of us is an individual and unique masterpiece.

I mused over this for a moment, then peeled my eyes off the window and made my way back to my vehicle, pausing briefly to grab myself a rose flavored chai and to make a quick stop in the toy store, which was busier than usual. Our little one is still too small for most of the toys there, and unfortunately the only orange plushies they had were kawaii hot sauce bottles or sad looking tigers, so in the end I settled on a small, squishy pink plague doctor plush that felt wonderfully soft and seemed like a good size for her to hug. Hopefully she'll like it. She's very bright and seems like she's a little ahead for her age, but I'm glad she's still too young to complain about getting clothes, because I also got her cute onzies with tails and little paws on the footies, and a glittery gold Christmas dress with snowflakes on it. It makes me a little sad knowing she'll probably only wear it once, but I can't wait to see how she looks in it.

I hummed to myself as I plopped the plushie into the passenger seat and started the car, which sputtered briefly, my faithful check engine light illuminating cheerfully as the engine roared to life. I pressed the radio button and Welcome to the Black Parade instantly began rattling through the sole remaining speaker, further fueling the peculiar giddiness welling up in my heart and making me feel extra cool for applying a dark smokey eye earlier that morning. I never had an emo phase, but I definitely enjoy pretending that I could have had one at some point.

I don't know what it is, but I can't help but feel feel like something big is in the air again. A strange hum hinting that the winds are shifting and something significant is about to happen- something that will be extrodanary and wonderful. It's not Christmas joy (of that I am quite certain!), but I feel still feel like there's a peculiar magic in the air and only good things can be ahead for us. It won't be easy (is still isn't), but now, even after everything I truly believe I am strong enough that I can survive anything and come out on top. I am truly blessed and while some days are still hard, for what may be the first time in a decade, I am happy again.


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