Touching to See the World

‘See how she leans her cheek upon her hand. O that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek!’

William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)


As I face the ever-diminishing sense of sight, my view of the world would be dim indeed, if my hands were bound together, and never allowed to reach out and touch what my eyes fail to see.

As if eyes reside on the pads of my fingertips, often roaming hands glide and pat, fingers feel and fiddle with everything my hands come into contact with, in an attempt to perceive the world. Sometimes, my grown-up children prefer I keep hands laced together on those occasions when they witness my close shaves with precariously balanced fruit and fragile homeware perched on store counters.

‘Mum. Stop touching everything!’ comes their plea.

Sorry, but I can’t do that. Expected to stand empty-handed in a store while others look around is like being thirsty in a cafe where everyone is placing their drink orders and excluding yours. So naturally, I ignore their request for tactile decorum and keep feeling items on shelves, clothes in racks, food in plastic wrapping – to satisfy my curious fingers.

Touching treasures

Family and friends who know me well will often place an item of interest into my open hand whenever they see something they know I would be allowed to touch and would enjoy ‘seeing’ too.

Touch brings a deep sense of inclusion, where I can not only be brought into the picture of what others are seeing but I can also offer my own comments as I trace over the contour, feel the texture, delight in the shape of the item we are both looking at.

Without wanting to sound like a touchaholic here, I have good reasons for my keen pursuit for tactile therapy, especially in retail stores and garden centres. To shop is an open invitation to touch: to touch is to see.

I don’t have to buy anything I handle but where else is there such an open invitation for hands to browse? Not at a museum. Not at an art gallery. So naturally, my hands move around the goods on display on a market table, department store or garden nursery in a frenzied urge to oblige my all-seeing hands.

Seeing through the skilful movement of receptive fingers, they have rarely broken or damaged anything.

A Touch too keen

There have been a few times when my zealous partner has tried a little too hard to bring objects into my viewing hands. We were at a French museum when Harry gently guided my open palm to glide over an exhibit of a rare stuffed bird – until the curator came screaming towards us like a screeching banshee with its tail on fire!

Harry shrugged his shoulders and held up my white cane with a baffled smile, nudging me away from the feathered bird, muttering an apology in French for my unrestrained actions.

On another occasion, while we were enjoying a romantic stroll through the scent-filled botanical gardens in Melbourne, Harry got the inspired idea to take me for a tactile tour around the cactus garden because rare flowers were in full bloom and large enough for me to see.

My fingers unfurled from the white cane to gently grasp the plant in his hand. With much care and a deep intake of breath, I managed to avoid being spiked by the impressive serrated leaves of several cacti until Harry gathered up a fallen specimen from the mulched ground near our feet.

He was so taken with the excitement of sharing nature’s little treasure, and to include me in seeing what he could see that, without thinking, he handed me the small fruit of the prickly pear, realising in the split second it took me to throw it back at him, that maybe, pulling out fine needle-like hairs from both our palms could have been better handled – if we had brought thick industrial gloves.


Do you have a ‘touching’ story or mishap to share? Please leave your comments…


You Might Also Like to Read:

Hide and Seek

For the Love of Writing

Why go to Live Theatre if You Are Blind?


© 2017 Maribel Steel

Photography © 2017 Harry Williamson

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