Touch

January 26, 2016

 

 

Contrapposto II, 16 x 20

 

 

In my thirties, when I was going through a difficult time, I took my first yoga class. The class was at a remarkable log building retreat in deep Lanark.

 

The "yoga studio" had a burning woodstove and after every class we had a hot tub under the heavens, every curl on my head frozen. 

 

 

The novelty for me wasn't the yoga, but the last "shape". Shivasana, corpse pose. Structured non-doing was crazy to me. Against my rules. It turned my central nervous system upside down. Radical.

 

And synonymous with bursting into tears. Because of…. more things than I could count.

 

At the end of the class the teacher, Daniel of the Dreadlocks, would cover me a in a soft plaid blanket and tuck it lovingly around my feet. Then he would lightly squeeze my feet.

 

As he did with everyone.

 

My kids were tiny.

 

My work, looming to the left of my consciousness, seemed an undefined blob.

 

Mirrors were okay so long as I averted my eyes.

 

My mother was lying in a rotation of hospital beds, six hours and a snowstorm away.

 

I begged friends to take my preschoolers. My son helped out by peeing in a friend’s carpeted closet. But not by accident.

 

My husband and I could agree on two topics; Consecutive hours of sleep and loving your children were of utmost importance.

 

I was failing spectacularly at everything.

 

My feet were waiting.

 

***

Touch is a topic that I find really fascinating. Squished on a bench in the tarp covered flatbed of a pickup truck, my knapsack between my feet, driving the backroads of Thailand.

 

In the subway in Mexico city, my 13 year old daughter three torsos away.

 

A stranger who uses my name, laughs, touches my forearm.

 

I like proximity, studies that examine how we respond to sitting on a warm bus seat. Cross cultural differences in conversation and proximity. Arab men who greet each other with a kiss.

 

***

When my mother lay dying I curled around her on the hospital bed.

 

My mother did not model empowerment, but she created a culture of affection around me for which I continue to be grateful.

 

As an adult I continued to sit on my mother’s lap.

 

My son (17), all 6ft4” of his pterodactylness, still sits on my lap. He does this with more humour than grace.

 

My laughter helps me to edit my parental commentary, to step over my complaints of a messy kitchen, a job not done.

 

***

 

These days I still end the yoga class with my eyes closed.

 

A few teachers you know from how they talk that they aren’t going to touch you. I can’t identify it, and there may be many cues. Perhaps they don’t want to offend.

 

Some students recoil at being touched and might make arrangements to make sure it doesn’t happen.

 

A week ago I watched one teacher, after years of not touching students, pushing herself to do it.

 

Her hands trembling around my ears.

I was grateful for her bravery, and wondered what her story was.

 

Sometimes I sense the teacher a few feet away, lavender oil wafting my direction. From the corner of my eye I glimpse her gently cradle the skull on the mat next to mine.

 

Child that I am: Pick me, pick me.

 

On a lucky day a teacher will squat at my feet and press her thumbs into my mid-calf. I wonder why this gesture is not the fulcrum of pornography.

 

Inhale. Exhale.

 

Inspirez. Expirez.

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