“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway


In the high tops of the Colorado Rockies rests a quaint little ski town called Keystone. For the second year in a row the townspeople were embarked upon by what has come to be known as the Paradise Tattoo Gathering organized by none other than the fine folks at Off the Map Tattoo and TattooNOW. Leaving the comforts of my rural home just outside of Grants Pass, Oregon to board a flight to lovely Colorado I anticipated the adventure with great excitement. Which familiar faces would I see? Who would I meet? How would I handle the altitude change? On and on my mind raced with excitement during the flight to Denver, fortunately it was a rather quick one and I was back on the ground within 3 hours.


Upon my arrival with Northwest co-worker and fellow traveler Jason Damage, we made our way through the labyrinth that is the Denver International Airport and immediately met up with a few of our New England team members. Up the mountain we drove together through utter darkness, rain pouring heavy without pause. There were echoed rumors of floods and havoc below. I could feel the pressure increasing, air becoming thin, every breath heavier and heavier as we made the ascent towards Loveland Pass at 11,990 feet. We made our way over the peak and began descending towards the resort, instant headache with a slight bit of nausea settled in and I couldn’t wait to arrive at our destination so that I might cozy up in a bed and sleep off the altitude sickness. Welcome to Colorado!


The following days were nothing short of a hectic yet thrilling blur. Aside from the aches and pains, lack of sleep, and the overwhelming amount of information I am still trying to digest, I also recall experiencing some of the most inspiring moments that I have had all year. It is truly amazing to be surrounded by so many great artists whom I look up to and respect, to be able to converse with them, share and gain knowledge, and to kindle new connections and friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime. For this opportunity I am so very grateful and honored.


As the final day of the event slowed to a halt artists, collectors, volunteers and the curious began saying their farewells and vacating the premises. Slowly but surely every booth emptied and what was just hours before a room filled with unrelenting inspiration all that was left were the ruins of abandonment and what memories we could hold on to.


Before sunrise the following day Jason and I caught our shuttle back to Denver. We passed many areas that had been completely destroyed by the floods with vast clearings of toppled trees, broken and washed away road edges, and rock slides closing entire lanes for miles. These sights coupled with the cherished memories of the past weekend reminded me of the fragility of life and the necessity to live inspired at all costs. Equipped with these thoughts and feelings in mind and heart I was ready to head back to Oregon.


With only a vague recollection of the subsequent events, one thing is for certain….. It’s always good to be home.