Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Touch

Glorious nectarine sunburst via Flickr. Yes, I am aware
of the, ahem, more luscious connotations of this image.
...and all the rest of our senses, and for the body that brings the world into us. We often think of beauty as something to be seen, but many of our most beautiful experiences come to us through other mediums: the power of a smell, whether a bouquet of freesias or your mother's curry or fresh bread baking or woodsmoke on a winter's night; the tactile sensations of toes on cool flagstones or dipping into fresh water on a day of oppressive heat, a loving body pressed against ours, the pleasing smoothness of an egg fitting into our hands, the fur behind a cat's ear; the taste of mangoes in summer and roast potatoes in winter, or a glass of water when we're thirsty, or the brown-gold warmth of coffee in the morning; the sound of laughter, or rain, or music. These are experiences that are fleeting and beautiful, and which often give us joy on a level so deep as to be almost unconscious. Sometimes we hardly recognize them except as a feeling of bliss or contentment or gladness, way down in our guts or souls, below the level of words.

If this month's posts are 26 inspirations for the Museum of Joy, perhaps this one is not only an inspiration but also the best explanation I can give of the exhibits I would like to fill it with and the way I want it to be built: a house of community, of festivity, of celebration,  and of the senses.

Look, I don't know how to put the quenching of thirst on display, or the taste of a summer tomato still warm from the sun, or the curve of someone's neck. But that's still the plan, really. To find a way to put these things, or the essence of them - distilled into art, or poetry, or song, I guess - into a labyrinth of lovely rooms, and let the people of the earth roam through it. I honestly don't care if it can't be done, because I'm pretty sure that even a loose approximation would be, to put it frankly, pretty fucking awesome.

If you were going to put one of your favorite small, sensual experiences on display for others, how would you go about it? Would you build a shaded garden for your friends to walk barefoot in? Give out fresh-baked cookies? Put together a room full of pillows and sunshine? Paint a picture full of the colors you feel when you smell thunder coming? Beat a drum? Would you try and remake the experience literally for other people to step into, or create an evocative representation instead? Think about it and let me know in the comments!


  1. You'd need a room full of puppies. Seriously. They're soft and wiggly and licky. There's not much better.

    1. I was thinking about that, actually. Not a bad plan...

  2. That is a wonderful concept, but very, very hard to actually do. I can't even begin to think how to share with another person the joy of hearing a cat purr (a recording maybe, but the you lose the smell and feel of the fur) or the elemental fulfillment of making a great pot of soup. The whole idea is very thought provoking though.

    1. You're right, Danielle, and that's the challenge! The thing that has so far come the closest for me is Michael C. McMillen's installation The Pavilion of Rain, which I wrote about here, because he really and truly makes it rain. I am thinking pretty seriously about there being a communal kitchen aspect of the Museum, for exactly that satisfying-pot-of-soup feeling; some of it may have to come through residencies, I guess? Or just having animals wandering around? See, this is what fascinates me...and why I'm working on it NOW!

  3. Yeah, I vote for a puppy room or really any sort of baby animal room. Baby bunnies are super cute and soft. I like to go to PetSmart just to watch the dogs at their daycare center. I think a sandbox would be fun too. It feels good on the feet and it's fun to make stuff.

    I'm pretty easy to please, so my favorite thing is waking up and smelling that the coffee is ready. I love my programmable coffee maker!


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