Happily, I’m having one of those weeks where my reading keeps building and my thoughts keep expanding out, turning into this incredibly complex web of interests. I’m not quite sure where to look at any given moment. I’ve made some decisions to change things — in big ways and in small ways — over the last few months, and it’s like I’m looking at a map, looking at all the different routes I might take to get to where I’m going. Except that where I’m going is a very vague concept — like I’m headed to a suburb, rather than a particular address. It’s exciting*.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about how I’m a bit of an airhead, a bit of a dreamer. I need things and people to pull me back down to earth from time to time, and I need to do my best to be really organised so I don’t forget to do things I’ve said I will, or be places I’ve said I’ll be. I’ve also been teaching an awful lot of yoga classes these last few weeks. Having my head in so many different places in such a short space of time makes me even more prone to forgetting things. So it probably shouldn’t surprise me that I’ve found my way back to sitting curled up with a book for hours on end. It seems to satisfy both the dreaminess and the need for some kind of grounding.
Among other things (I seem to have ploughed through books much faster than usual lately), I’ve been reading Anne Enright’s Booker Prize winning novel The Gathering, partly for sheer enjoyment, and partly for research. Today I came across this passage, where the character is thinking about St Veronica, who gave Jesus her veil so he could wipe his face as he carried his cross:
“I became quite fond of her; a figure leaning out of the crowd, both supplicatory and tender. I still think of her wherever wet towels are offered in Chinese restaurants and on old-fashioned airlines. We have lost the art of public tenderness, these small gestures of wiping and washing; we have forgotten how abjectly the body welcomes a formal touch.”
It made me think about how we touch. How a small gesture of touch from another human being can bring so much comfort, can calm you down. Of how the gentlest touch when I’m teaching yoga can change a pose entirely for the student. And of how that calming, that grounding, on a yoga mat or in life, helps set the base from which expansion can occur.
* And, if I’m honest, at times also confusing and daunting. But then aren’t all the best things in life a mixture of exciting and daunting?