Apples and Demons, Revisited

If you follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook or, heck, know me via just about any social media site, you'll see the gargoyle from Notre Dame as my avatar image.

Someone at work asked me the other day, "What's with the gargoyle?" to which I replied with a phrase I use in multiple "about me" scenarios: "It's a long story...".

It's a question I'm asked quite often because not only does the gargoyle image act as my avatar, but it sits on my right arm, tattooed there to look over me just as the one in Paris looks over the city skyline -- to watch, to guard, to ward.

And to remind.

I blogged about the gargoyle in the summer of 2005, as I researched and prepared for the tattoo. That post is buried in archives elsewhere, so I'll excerpt a bit here:

While googling for gargoyles, I ran across references to Marjorie Hunt's Academy Award-winning documentary The Stone Carvers. The film (and the accompanying book) examines the tradition of stone-carving via the lives and careers of several Italian-American artists who carved the sculptures and embellishments on the National Cathedral in Washington DC. It's a wonderful film; I watched it years ago when working on my Master's Degree in Folklore. It was so wonderful, in fact, that I dragged [Anthony], who is also a stone carver, in for a special screening of it. (The film was a "film" -- only available on 16mm -- so it wasn't as simple as smuggling the DVD copy home to watch.) In one of the most memorable scenes, a stone carver demonstrates his strength -- the strength that comes from years and years of labor with limestone and chisel -- by snapping an apple in two. He cups a red apple in his hands, presses his thumbs in towards the stem, and breaks the fruit neatly in half. [Anthony] was most impressed and practiced this trick at home many times before mastering it. This, in his mind, more than any marble monument he could create, was the feat of a master stone carver.

As the cancer continues to run its course, his strength is all but gone. His tools and art supplies lie unused, his projects unfinished. The apples in my house are whole these days; it's my heart that's broken in two.

So I'm getting a gargoyle tattoo -- a gargoyle to sit on my shoulder and to keep away demons, a gargoyle inked into my skin, a reminder of my own stone carver, the fragility of life, and the durability of stone.

I got the tattoo three days before Anthony died.

The last week or so of his life was sheer hell. And as I think of him slipping in and out of consciousness, crying out in pain, succumbing to the visions of death and morphine, I like to think that one of the last things he saw -- he really saw -- was my newly inked skin.

Ink and Stone. My guardian. My avatar.



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