4/52- A Serious Commitment to Science

I don’t ever remember thinking that boys were better at science and math, I just knew that I wasn’t very good at either of them. Math and I never really got along, but as a nature-loving kid, science intrigued me.  It was hard for me though, and I readily backed away from the subject. Reading and writing came easily, and I was praised from a young age for having skill in both arenas. As is the lazy way of living life, I threw myself into a world of words and allowed a passion for English to justify an avoidance of science. A pretty successful run in Physical Science and Biology could not suppress my growing fear that I would fail out of Chemistry in my Junior year. I convinced my guidance counselor that I didn’t need to take it, and enrolled in the “easier” Ecology class, primarily occupied by academically low seniors seeking an easy A (or, maybe, a good effort B).

In Mr. Corcoran’s Ecology class I found out that I loved science. We talked about evolutionary theory, Darwin and Lucy. My head was spinning in amazement thinking about the world that had come before us, the parts and pieces that made up our humanness, the extreme self awareness to even begin to consider where we came from.  As an adult, I am extremely thankful to be ignorant of the fact that some kids, in some schools, in some parts of the country, were not permitted to talk about such subjects in the classroom. I am thankful for public schools in the suburbs of Chicago.

I was inspired by this wonderful universe where science and history and theory and field research all came together. Although I was too logical and future focused to consider changing my career plans from English to anthropology, paleontology or archaeology, it didn’t stop me from developing my pre-political persona in which I argued the facts of evolution with every uneducated person I met. I didn’t have to do it often, just on a trip or two to the South. Mostly I just drew napkin art depicting climate change, sat on the floor of bookstores explaining Pangea, and looked at the attributes of stranger’s faces – wondering what distant conditions shaped their profiles. I let a casual admiration for dinosaurs evolve into a real interest – reading about dinosaurs, writing about dinosaurs, interviewing dinosaur experts. The two things that take my breath away most in life are the awesome and humbling Colorado Rocky mountains at close proximity, and the mere fact that dinosaurs walked the face of the earth.

Despite my growing passion, I stayed in the closet about science, academically. I went on to study English—a subject I knew I could excel in. Don’t get me wrong, I love English. I love letters and words and dénouements. I love story and I love craft – but I love English in a calm and beautiful way. I love literature because I love art.

Science lives and breathes and changes. If Literature is a cappuccino, Science is a Tango partner.

I committed to English. I got a BA in English. I quoted Shakespeare, I treated every book like a bible. I got an MA in writing. I blogged and sculpted sentences and owned the title of Writer. I committed.

Adventure #4 involved me coming out of the closet. Me admitting that although I never took chemistry, and I don’t really know how electricity works, I am dedicated to science. To nature, to dinosaurs, to Darwin. I wanted to commit to Science.

The tattoo had been inked to paper for months. Riding around in the safety of my Timbuk2, close to me, but not yet on my flesh. I was sure. I knew exactly what symbol of my passion for science and nature I desired.

A word (for words will always be my first love). A beautiful word.


It’s the transitional fossil between dinosaurs and birds. The literal break down means “ancient” and “feather” or “wing.” The discovery of this fossil in 1861 gave merit to Darwin’s promises that we would find proof of evolution. This creature had a foot in both worlds – part in the world of the dinosaurs who would become extinct on this earth, and part in the world of birds. The past and the future.

The process of becoming tattooed itself was short and challenging. I was nervous to the point of shaking.  I was not afraid of the commitment—I was afraid of the pain. I was afraid it wouldn’t be perfect, that it would be crooked, that it would be spelled wrong. In the end, I was right to be afraid of the pain. Let me advise the tattoo enthusiasts out there—have a few glasses of whiskey before you let someone ink your ribs. I did not, and I regretted it, quite a bit.

I was accompanied by fellow brave adventurer Roberto, who made his own ink commitment that night, and a gaggle of girlfriends who spent the evening in the bar while I had my ceremony. I’ll allow Roberto to share the story of his adventure, but together we inked ourselves. We challenged ourselves. We made decisions about who we are and who we want to become. We made our passions permanent.

While there are no pictures of my actual inking, here’s one of Roberto under the needle. One of the two of us right after the deed, and one of my final product. (Although an odd picture, its my ribs/right side-my hand holding up my shirt. Next time we see each other, I’ll show you in person.