I am lingering in the memory of what it feels like to be held.
This time of physical distancing has felt cruel to me; I miss the feeling of someone leaning into me, and I into them, our synchronizing breath connecting us in a symbiotic heartbeat.
I read recently of neighbours who were tying beautiful red ribbons around large tree trunks to remind those of us sitting in longing that the trees are there, patiently waiting, if tree-hugging is your thing.
My love affair with trees started years ago as I stood at the base of a massive redwood tree in Jedediah Redwood State Park, surprised to find myself overwhelmed, first by awe and then by tenderness. Heeding a primal call, in a way that toddlers have mastered and adults have forgotten, I found myself stretching my arms wide and tipping forward in a full-bodied forward flop.
I leaned my full weight into her steady being, in the way a horse or dog will do, and immediately felt her reassurance.
My cheek on her soft bark, tears sprung to my eyes and I just stood, held in unconditional love. I could feel the hum of her energy; as clear as a heartbeat in a lover’s chest. Answers to unconscious questions, flooded through me as the feeling of calm and sanctuary took hold.
Even now when I think of her, I am mesmerized and reassured as I imagine her, bearing witness this Covid madness, firmly standing, gently swaying.
And while this memory doesn’t fully ease my loneliness, it does bring me to a new awareness of the soft, familiar ways that we communicate through touch. When the time comes, I want to be ready to reintroduce them into my life with intention.
For years I have envied the Italians as they walk through the square arm-in-arm, so now I will overcome my shyness and claim that bonded declaration of friendship for myself. The squeeze of the elbow of a co-worker in a “job well done” won’t be thrown away as hurried gesture, but an intentional moment of locking step in unified progress. I will infuse honour alongside familiarity as I greet family and friends in the circle of their arms. And as I extend my hand to a new acquaintance, I will be conscious that it is through my fingers that I transmit my pledge of trustworthiness and kindness.
I am making a touch reclamation list; I will be ready.
Until then I will sink further into my relationship with nature and all the ways that she is still willing to hold me. The lake gently caresses me in an embrace, the wind catches my shoulder blade and hurries me along, the grass tickles me…
and the trees still bear my weight.
I admit, I’m a little more self-conscious; it seems city people are a little surprised to witness people hugging trees. But every once in a while I catch the eye of someone who gives me a knowing smile, and has a red ribbon trailing from their back pocket.