“The Art of Being” by Ingrid Walker

This poem.
These words.
They are like coming home.

In his first move away from his native place at age 8, my son and I left Lexington and the only community he’d really known. He’s a proud Kentuckian and although it wasn’t my birthplace, I, too, felt that we left a second home. So the Love Letter To the World project has given us a chance to be reconnected through language to that Lexington community. The idea of a poem embodied in this way seems exactly how literature should be: living and breathing out in the world. Dante suggested that we should get our phrases done together as an experience to mark his last year at home before college—a manifestation of our connection to each other and those Kentucky roots.

At a time when events in the U.S. and the world made it difficult to sustain my faith in humanity, “Love Letta to de Worl’” was a salve. It soothed the gnawing feeling of isolation and the despair about all the ways we do not do right by each other. Frank X Walker’s speech act folds me back into the arms of the human family.

On subsequent readings, “how small we truly are” stayed with me. We truly are. Although I tried out other phrases, I kept returning to these words. They remind me of my connection to all living things (“we”)—and our most primary state of being. We are. We truly are.

Through Walker’s empathetic word-smithy, I am reminded of my place in the cosmos, on this giant spinning rock, among all the other feeling beings. These words also call me back to consciousness: I am. We are. And the echo of “how small” we truly are reflects how interconnected my actions are with everything else. I am not off the hook. I am accepted for what I am and yet I am held accountable to everything and everyone else. “For every atom belong to me as good belongs to you.” (“Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman)

This emblem of my state of being makes sense to me not as a meditation on the self so much as my place in the larger human family that I so gratefully experience every day. I am because we are.

Through the Love Letter To the World tattoo project, I want to make good on that promise of accountability. I now have a reminder of my desire to be truly present in this human family on this beautiful planet. When others ask about the words or the artwork, this phrase will open a conversation, maybe a connection. In that way, my tattoo reminds me I am, here and now, with all of you. I love you. And I love this world.

With love and compassion, through pain and suffering, across time and in this moment, we truly are.

Ingrid Walker

Ingrid Walker’s “we truly are” (image courtesy of Ingrid Walker)

Dante Tenzin Fields

Dante Tenzin Fields’ “seven different faces.” (image courtesy of Ingrid Walker)

Ingrid Walker and Dante Tenzin Fields

Ingrid and Dante, days after his 18th birthday (image courtesy of Ingrid Walker)