or is it the touch of texture?
Last week I gave you a view into my perspective on taste. The trouble with our five senses is that they are so interconnected, that sometimes it’s hard to neatly carve each one out.
Touch. The peach has a texture like velvet or suede. Blackberries are bumpy. Kiwis are hairy on the outside and grainy on the inside. But, this is not a food blog.
So, I think about texture and touch.
I often tell my friends that when I go antique shopping I am really going to “pet the wood.” I suppose I come from a long line of wood junkies. My grandfather and father were woodworkers. Now my brother is the sole woodworker. (I have pieces made by each one of them.) But wood, like a peach, is a sensuous pleasure.
There are few things as deep in character as an antique table or bureau that has been thoroughly loved and used by generations before us. The wood is almost like satin to the touch, with all the years of hands crossing its surface, perhaps flicking off dust or just grazing the top on the way to pick up that bottle of cologne. I own an antique Scottish washstand with marble top and the most incredible mahogany base. When you run your hands across it, it just cries out to be petted! There is both a sense of pleasure and of memory. I find it comforting to caress the years of gentle wear that have built up that satiny, glossy surface just waiting for my touch.
Consider fabric. I can spend hours looking for the perfect piece of fabric that feels just right for the purpose I intend it. My cousin who, like me, works in mixed media is pioneering this aspect into her work. I’m not so brave just yet. She has used upholstery fabric or some other bit or piece she just happened across. Some years ago she gave me a piece of white satiny brocade which I am still looking to use. Silk dupioni is another one…slightly iridescent and nubby from all the imperfections in the fabric — makes a killer pair of dress pants! I used to have a pair…they finally gave up the ghost from being worn too much. It was a love affair, for certain. I caressed them, adored them, wore them for every dressy occasion — they were red and I thought they were quite daring. I always heard compliments — perhaps because I wasn’t wearing black — my standard.
I have searched days or weeks to find the exceptional pima cotton dress or t-shirt. I want it to be as soft as cashmere — but not as hot! I had never paid all that much attention to cotton knits…weren’t they all pretty good? Until I went on a business trip to Paris and a woman in the office there talked about how nice American cottons are and how difficult it was for her to find them in France. If you know French dressing, then you know French women wear lots of white t-shirts. Usually nothing more expensive or sophisticated than Hanes, but I thought perhaps a fine pima t-shirt might be just the way to thank this terrific woman who had helped me with my meetings there. I mailed her one when I got back home. She reminded me to touch of something I had forgotten and I was grateful.
Why does the memory of touch bring also a moment of joy?
Honestly, I am not sure.
What strikes me profoundly is the simplicity of touch and yet, the incredible complexity of the emotion it brings for each of us. Wood is a thread of time with memories or mysteries running along its continuum. Fabric is one of the most sensuous pleasures skin may ever know. When I consider fabric, I think of opulence…of giving comfort to others and to myself…of having the riches of kings. How did we learn to weave? To make such beauty?
The things which I touch and that give me back some small shiver of delight are objects of joy. Because in the past three years I have wanted to learn how much I could live without — how much the ability to satisfy every want or craving with money is available to so many of us — I think I have learned extraordinary lessons in joy. There are still many things I would love to possess…but I don’t really need them and not possessing them has probably allowed me to live more freely than before.
But, to be able to let go with only a quick slide of your fingers over the texture of that old dining room table or your toes gently tripping over that Persian rug, woven of finest silk…it is a freeing moment. We live, we breathe and we touch…