Is it hot? Is it cold? Is it sharp? Is it dull? These are the simple questions.
I was not fully conscious of how finely sensitive my finger tips are — until my sense of touch was compromised by carpal tunnel. And although surgery for CTS is common, I’ve been a holdout. That’s changed. I’m going to have surgery. Because in the process of holding out, I learned what it means to have everything I touch feel like a bowl of sand.
The texture of bread dough? Sand. The round, firm skin of a grape? Sand. The silky smooth flesh of salmon? Sand. As I comb and brush my hair — that’s right — sand. Paper? I won’t say it again.
There is the sad fact that I have lost bragging rights to my asbestos hands. I could pick up a veggie burger from a pan and it would not burn my fingers. This is not the case right now, and I don’t like the experience. Touch is an iridescent spoke on the wheel of my world. Touch is why I love to cook. Touch is why I love to hug and cuddle. Touch makes me happy.
A friend of mine charged me with being “touchy-feely.” I embrace that label with love. When I think of my childhood, I go back to the place where I was not raised. I go back to the summers I spent with grandparents in South Carolina. It was there where I connected with the silk of corn, the taste of well water, and the sunny warmth of fresh-cut watermelon on my tongue. It was there where I experienced soundless nights and pink cloud mornings. If I could live to be a thousand years old, I would forever embrace the sense experiences I received from my grandparents’ lands.
When I remember touch in the city, it is not a soft memory — except in the context of food. With food, touch drives memory: squeezing an orange, fluting a pie crust, slicing a melon, or rubbing a roast. When I think of touch in the city, I think of standing in summer rain to cool off from the heat of a small apartment that seven people called home. When I think of touch in the city, it comes with art—the thin press of violin strings, the satiny fit of a leotard.
And when I think of sand, in its own nature, I think of the sea. There is no sea in my kitchen; no sea in my hair.
Yesterday, for the sake of feeling the smoothness of dough, I made a pizza. I like the touch of food: (haven’t you noticed?) kneading dough, slicing carrots, tearing lettuce, dicing onions or potatoes. But yesterday, I had a spiritual bonding with my food processor as it made the dough, and when I poured it out onto parchment to give it a brief knead…it felt like sand.
I know that this is temporary. But it’s given me pause to reflect on the importance of touch and how much I love the purity of the senses.
I guess there is truth in the saying after all. “In everything is a gift.”