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Janet Rosen
05-31-2015, 06:13 PM
This month's "The Mirror" column was written by Janet Rosen 2015, all rights reserved.
The trowel makes the first cut in the soil but it is my bare hands that do the work: scoop a hole, cup and tip in a bit of bone meal, loosen the baby tomato from its plastic pot, then holding it upright with one hand, nestle it in with handfuls of sun-warmed soil and top it with cool compost from a shady spot. I grew up in an apartment but mom taught me the secrets of transplanting, an annual ritual for philodendrons and other potted survivors, the joy of touching the earth.
*

My first memory of touch is not human. I am a small child, somewhere between toddler and pre-school, curled on the living room rug, my pillow the black-and-tan furred ribs of a German Shepard, his legs forming the outlinesof a bed around me. I delight in the warmth of his fur, the rhythm of his breathing. I feel love, acceptance, security.
*

Ten years later. A hot summer day at a public pool. A handsome olive-skinned boy flirts, then comes closer. In the middle of the pool we embrace and kiss. The sun is directly overhead, searing bright white through my eyelids. Where our bare stomachs touch there is a delicious sensation of hot skin and rivulets of cool water. His arms around me and his mouth against mine last for a moment but for that moment there is nothing else in the world. Nearing a half century later I can close my eyes and summon that touch.
*

The man had broken his neck in an accident. He lies still and frightened on the gurney, staring at the ceiling, listening to the crew assembled to transfer him to bed. I walk to the head of the gurney and lock eyes with him, tell him we have done this before and that it's going to be fine. My job is keeping his head and neck in perfect alignment no matter what happens. My focus is transmitting through my hands a world of firm, loving reassurance.
*

When I started aikido, my overwhelmed mind was too concerned with the choreography of my extremities in space to consider touch. I slowly wakened to the need to accept my partners, to not keep them at arm's length. An offhand suggestion to cradle uke's head like a baby and bring it to my opposite shoulder changed everything. My hands became soft and gentle. For a brief time I treated my attackers as I would my patients, cradling them right down to the ground. I learned to integrate that touch into my aikido even as moving and throwing more freely.
*

I realized sometime in the last year or two that I could feel my nage's position and posture while I was face-planted, facing away, and offer specific corrections to their pins. In aikido as we open our hearts, we learn through touch to know our partners as intimately as family, as lovers.


"The Mirror" is written by a roster of women who describe themselves as a disparate bunch of scientists, healers, artists, teachers, and, yes, writers. Over ten years into this collaboration we find we are a bunch of middle-aged yudansha from various parts of the world and styles of aikido. What we share is a lively curiosity about and love for both life and budo, and an inveterate tendency to write about our explorations.

Janet Rosen
05-31-2015, 07:39 PM
How did I keep proofing but missing? In last paragraph I am taking ukemi therefore it's NAGE who I feel.

Janet Rosen
05-31-2015, 09:12 PM
How did I keep proofing but missing? In last paragraph I am taking ukemi therefore it's NAGE who I feel.

Thank you, Jun, for correcting :)

mathewjgano
06-01-2015, 02:25 AM
Profoundly beautiful. Thank you for sharing these moments, Janet!

Susan Dalton
06-01-2015, 11:08 AM
Yes, I agree, profoundly beautiful. Such a simple concept, and so, so hard to always execute. I agree with the comment about Jun being wonderful, too.

Susan Dalton
06-01-2015, 11:09 AM
Oh, and Janet, I meant to thank you for referring to me as middle-aged!:)

Peter Boylan
06-01-2015, 03:12 PM
Lovely! So much more beautiful than my utilitarian descriptions. It opens whole new layers.

Peter Goldsbury
06-01-2015, 04:39 PM
Lovely! So much more beautiful than my utilitarian descriptions. It opens whole new layers.

Oh, I don't know, Peter. Your utilitarian descriptions are valuable precisely because they are utilitarian -- and without the slightly pejorative tinge in your post. Touch is, well, touch. You can make an anatomical / physiological account, or be poetic about it, like Janet. I'm not sure about the layers, though.

Best wishes, on a dull Tuesday morning in Hiroshima.

PAG

Janet Rosen
06-01-2015, 07:38 PM
Oh, and Janet, I meant to thank you for referring to me as middle-aged!:)

Heck, I'm more middle-aged then you ;) in some places 60 qualifies me for senior discount

Janet Rosen
06-01-2015, 07:40 PM
Thank you all for kind words. Peter B., I usually write pretty prosaically also, unless I'm doing haiku-type nature observation, so this was a departure for me. But I agree with PAG. Just different ways of writing, meeting different needs.

R.A. Robertson
06-06-2015, 02:52 PM
Yes.