While I Breathe, I Hope.

“Dum spiro spero.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

I’ve been thinking about this tattoo for a long time.  I knew what I wanted it to mean, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I wanted it to say or look like.

A couple of months back, I was raiding the book shelf for an old book to lend to a friend when I came across my Latin textbook from high school.  I took a few years of Latin, which seems like a total waste of time unless you’re going to become a doctor or a lawyer – neither of which I am.

I loved Latin for the sheer fact that I love the written word.  I was in love with the way words started out, morphed into something new, and transcended languages in order to become this universal understanding in a few simple letters.  Latin for me was all about English, strange as that seems.

When I ran across this book, dusty from years (and yeeeeears) of neglect, I sat down for a minute to flip through the chapters.  Stuck in between the pages was a piece of college-ruled notebook paper, and written in pencil was this:

Dum spiro spero. 

While I breathe, I hope.

I can only assume this was part of some homework assignment from back when I was sixteen years old.  Back when I knew nothing of what it meant to truly hope.  Or before I knew what it meant to just breathe through the pain, hoping for relief on the other side.

The paper, the handwriting – my handwriting – hit me like a ton of bricks.  The statement was something I’d studied and long since forgotten, and yet it’s a lesson I am still learning, every single day.

Knowing what I wanted to say was half the battle, but knowing how to incorporate it into a design was something I had trouble imagining.

I have always loved birds.  All kinds of birds.  I have my grandmother to thank for that… I learned to read from her Audubon field guide.

Steadfast robins, chipper chickadees, regal cardinals, spunky sparrows, beautiful bluebirds, even raucous blue jays.  I love the freedom in the form of a bird; a creature that can literally leave a situation by taking flight.  The purest form of freedom, as their troubles cannot often follow where they fly.

I started researching bird tattoos and came across some information that solidified my choice.  The traditional swallow tattoo was one that mariners and sailors received after logging five thousand miles at sea.  They received their second after ten thousand miles.

The swallows were said to represent a long and arduous  journey and hope for calm seas and a smooth passage home.

I’m no sailor, but I’ve been on a journey of my own.  If miles were dollars spent in the attempt to conceive, I’d have a flock of swallows tattooed on me by now.

This ink is something I’ll live with forever.  Something to remind me always of this journey, whether it has a happy ending or not.  A permanent manifestation of hardship lived, freedom from strife reaffirmed, and the hope of calm seas for the rest of the journey.

I know that my journey is not over; in fact, it may only have just begun.  There may be more struggles ahead for me, but even when things get stormy, to my last dying breath, I will always have hope.

14 comments on “While I Breathe, I Hope.

  1. Jessica
    June 28, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Tracy!!! It is beautiful! 🙂


  2. B
    June 28, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    I love this! Love the tattoo, love the meaning, love the placement. ❤


  3. Mothernatureschmature
    June 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    I LOVE it!!!


  4. Katie
    June 28, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    Love it…and it’s story


  5. Stupid Stork
    June 29, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    That is SO gorgeous, and such a great meaning. Awesome.


  6. Amelia
    June 29, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    It’s beautiful!!!


  7. B
    June 29, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    It’s beautiful and has such wonderful meaning!


  8. Shelley
    June 29, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    I am obviously behind – you already got it! It is seriously gorg. I love the writing and the artistic treatment of the swallow. Swallows also represent fertility and freedom! It’s really perfect. Congratulations!


  9. cassiedash
    June 30, 2012 at 2:04 am #

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!


  10. Tracy
    July 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    Thanks for all the ink-love! 😀

    I am thrilled with how this turned out, and once I get past the itchy, flaky stage I’m currently suffering through, I will be rocking this bad boy all over town!

    The people who have seen it so far have always asked me what the Latin means, and why I chose that particular statement. It’s a nice springboard into infertility awareness without being overly-preachy. 🙂


  11. Michelle O. (@K9obsession)
    July 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    Wow….everything about this is just awesome and perfect.


  12. swisswife
    August 17, 2012 at 5:27 am #

    Love it!


  13. Dalton Durdin
    November 14, 2014 at 4:37 am #

    It was my families motto long ways up the bloodline..I’m still trynna figure what it meant to them.. I’ll most likely never know but just thinking of the meaning in my own opinion is beautiful, and it helps throughout the day when my mind becomes cloudy!!



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