I don’t know about you, but it seems to me we writers are missing the boat a little bit, myself very much included.
I was reading a passage in Confessions of a Shopaholic yesterday, in which the author describes the feel of an article of clothing. It struck me – like Thor’s hammer – that I’d missed many opportunities to describe how something felt on the skin or the experience of touching something for the first time.
Oh, I know, as readers we have plenty of opportunity to experience the lusty pleasures of touch, through the steamy pages of nearly every novel nowadays, but there is so much more than that to write about. I had an experience about 10 years ago that perfectly illustrates what I’m talking about.
My new home – new to me, that is, as it was a 1940s bungalow – had a corner in my bedroom which was devoted to large windows that met each other at my headboard. It was a lovely spring day in the San Fernando Valley of California. A huge big-leaf maple tree towered over this part of the house and as I opened both windows a mild breeze rushed in. I spread out on top of the cotton bedspread with a book in hand, expecting to read and perhaps nap for a while.
I was dressed in a strappy t-shirt and shorts, barefoot and my hair pulled up in a ponytail, with lots of exposed skin, in order to keep cool. As I tried to concentrate on the book, my attention was draw away by the feel of the air moving over my body.
“Silky” was the word that kept coming to me. It’s a cliché, I know, but I felt caressed by a soft, unseen touch that was simply the earth exhaling onto my body, a gentle blowing like when a lover cools you after the passion is spent; or perhaps, a mother trying to give her child a moment’s relief from the heat.
I stripped down to just my underwear and spent more than an hour simply feeling the breeze; allowing myself to be drawn into the sensuousness of that morning’s gift. I never slept, for this was an experience not to be wasted on slumber. Ever since that day, my sense of touch has been heightened. I will stop in the middle of something if I notice a sensation of touch that is extraordinary, or even when it’s ordinary but stirs a newness in me.
I have failed to use touch in my books as a way of exploring an experience or heightening one, as I think many writers have. However, today is a new day for me as a translator of touch.