In keeping with my theme of the five senses in writing and reading, I’m covering touch. Of course sight is the most common sense used in writing. And smell, whether good or bad, can be emotionally evocative. Hearing and taste have their place too but touch came to me from a game I played recently.
One night my daughter was rummaging through my nightstand and found a sleeping mask. She had me put it on to play a game with her Beanie Boo stuffed animals. We play with them quite a bit, so I’m familiar with most of them.
She handed each one to me to guess who it was. Some were easier than others. There was the unicorn with it’s shiny lame hooves and horn. The elephant with lame ears and a soft trunk. The lion with its mane. The owl has a tail and the penguin doesn’t. Then it got harder. What about her calico cat, cheetah, and two leopards? One of the leopards is mine (Laguna, the blue-green cutie in the photo) and wasn’t part of the game. But blindfolded how could I tell the other three cats apart?
The cheetah was the easiest because I remembered she had rounded ears. When it came to the calico cat and leopard, I admit I guessed and got it wrong. Had I really taken the time, I might have found the seam where the calico is made of two different colors of fur. That was the only way I could have done it without sight.
This exercise made me think of how texture is used in books. It’s probably the least-used senses in literature. Touch is usually relegated to beard stubble and silky hair. But it’s not entirely neglected. Fabric is often compared and contrasted especially in older books and historical novels. Cheap rough fabric makes me think of orphans. Heavy wool coats conjure up thoughts of soldiers. I was at a military surplus store and tried on an old army coat. It weighed a ton, but I loved the feel of it. Wool is one of my favorite fabrics because it can be soft and warm or scratchy and unbearable. Cotton is comfortable like an old t-shirt or well-worn dress. When silk is described, I think back nearly sixteen years to my shantung wedding gown. Satin makes me think of prom dresses and other formal events.
The opposite of beard stubble is the smoothness of baby’s skin or the fragility of an elderly person’s papery skin. And there are animals. Soft rabbits and cats, hairy dogs, and sleek horses.
What about surroundings? I loved running through grass as a kid growing up in the Midwest. But I’ve spent most of my adult life in Arizona. Our yards are often made up of crushed rock. I’ve never tried firewalking, but I suspect it’s not much different from running barefoot across decomposed granite in July. And weather. I spent a summer in Okinawa where it was ninety degrees and ninety percent humidity most of the time. Summer nights in Phoenix are almost surreal, it’s dark, still hot but remains dry. Most people would think that’s miserable, but it’s a feeling I actually like and really miss. That said, I’m perfectly content with cool summer nights in my mountain home.
Does the feeling of a certain fabric bring back memories?
What is your favorite weather? Mine is hot and dry