The Sense of Touch
It’s morning. Another day is here. What will we do with it? Will it count?
The sky outside is grey. There is a chill in the air and a light drizzle outside. I only know about the drizzle because I let the cat out and he came back inside almost immediately with a light spray on his coat; little tiny beads of water that were so small in size, they only felt wet when touched collectively, not individually.
This big black cat on my lap begs for my attention. He claws at my typing hands, begging for them to tap away on him, not this keyboard. Touch is a powerful thing, a beautiful thing, a necessary thing for all living creatures. I pause to connect with this beautiful creature, my friend. He purrs.
Oh, touch – yes, that is why I sat down to write this. It’s strange maybe, but I didn’t know exactly why I had the impulse to write until now. It has been so long since I shared with you.
I had a moment in my shoppe yesterday. Just signed a lease on a new art studio, and was feeling the triumph of the art path reforming. Considering what needed to be moved, and what would stay, I saw the tiny holes in my shoppe wall, holes from old nails. Holes that were created from hanging artwork and measuring badly. Holes that need spackle and paint, but there is no time to do such an activity, so they sit open and gaping. I think it’s okay, doubtful anyone notices. I know I hadn’t.
The shoppe and the bookstore were both quiet in that moment. I felt alone, but not lonely. It was a profound moment of solitude. The kind of moment where it is most delicious to be alone, where the mental chatter of the inner critic ceases, and in its absence all the senses awaken. In that moment of true solitude, the realization that you are alive enters. I felt alive and fully in my body – a rare moment of connectivity.
Gazing at the holes so in need of repair, I gently touched them in this full presence with the tips of my fingers. The drywall crumbled away. I saw the stripes, and remembered painting them. I ran my fingers across those stripes and thought about when my shoppe was just a dream, and those stripes the anchor in my mind. I thought about all the art, my art, those walls had held over the last 6 years. Over a hundred works of art maybe, have been hung and rehung in that time. Not just on that one wall, but in that room. Over a hundred works of my art, the fruits of my labor, the souvenirs of my journeys, the gifts of solitude.
I felt such appreciation for those walls that have held me and my art. Appreciation for the hearts touched, for the conversations sparked, for the income and the support. Running my hand across that small space of wall, I felt, in a very palpable and real way, supported. It was a new feeling. I know there is support for my art and what I do from loved ones and collectors, but I don’t often feel that support. Most of the time I feel crushingly alone. But in the tangible evidence of the wall, I felt support. I knew it. I saw it for both symbol and matter; a structure of support that has held me and allowed me to grow into someone I am (sometimes) proud to be.
I was utterly lost in my moment of reverie; savoring the memories, looking back on a difficult journey with love and appreciation. Mind you, the shoppe was open to the public during this time, and as it were, someone came in. I don’t know how long they were there, but suddenly I felt the sharp edge of reality – and in an instant, turned around to see a man standing there watching me. I yelped, startled, then laughed. He laughed too.
“What are you looking at?” He asked me.
I told him. I told him the whole beautiful thing, through embarrassed giggles.
He was kind and sympathetic. He moved to the wall to feel it himself.
As he touched it, he asked me, “And what are you feeling?”
“Gratitude”, I said. “The deepest kind of gratitude.”
He smiled and introduced himself as the owner of a business in the neighborhood. He might not have ever touched the wall of his establishment in the way I was doing, but in his introduction to me as a business owner, and in the light in his eyes, I knew he understood. And even though my cheeks burned bright with embarrassment – I felt seen.
Later that evening, I went outside and was chatting with a neighbor. The man walked up again, he knew my friend. We both laughed about the moment we shared, like old friends with an inside joke. (It occurs to me that the nature of an inside joke is that you have to go inside to create one. But I digress…)
He asked my friend if he knew me.
“Yes, of course” he said. And the man nodded and said with certainty, “well, she’s very special” and walked away.
I’ve been thinking about this interaction ever since. We all want to be seen, but are so afraid of it. I myself live my life in bursts of being seen. Retreating to the studio to make something all alone, delving deeply into the work and myself. Bringing back the art I created – a souvenir from the trip I took, I am then seen (or the work is). Only to retreat once again, deeper into myself.
I once read that in order to be an artist one has to learn to be alone in many ways. This is true, in my experience, and yet maybe not entirely true. Yes, one need be alone to dive in and create with focus and intention, but to live that way is crushing in its aloneness. I am seeking the balance between it all. The sublime moments of solitude, the divine revelations that come of it, and coming back to the world to find the reassuring caress of the beloved’s touch.