Return to Touching

I thought there would be a moment when all this pandemic would end. I clear marker to cross into “post”. Corks would pop, glasses ringing as they tapped in celebration of a win. VP-Day with confetti filled avenues. Something like that.

Instead there is more simply a loosening.  Hesitating.  My eyes still scan noting from habit masks dropped or still on. Murmurs between friends of have “you been vaccinated yet?” which is to say “are we safe together this close?”

On my vaccination-safe day two weeks after a 2nd jab I did the most celebratory thing a person who has lived as a single entity pod might do.  I went to get a full body massage. The gift certificate from another lifetime was still good, thankfully.  Two full hours on a warmed table under the care of healing hands would restore me I deeply hoped.

Hot stones, moved across the tightness in my shoulders on connective tissue running from below my earlobes, past my shoulder blades sliding to my waist. Muscles sighed as they uncoiled. The loneliness of disconnect began to ease. The massage therapist kneading the toxins of aloneness from my body.

I quietly acknowledged my gratitude inquiring if her practice had been adversely affected by clients staying safe at home. She huffed a “no” with an edge to it I had never experienced from a practitioner like her before. Responding to my surprise she released a frustrated string of clipped comments regarding the demanding, entitled souls absorbed with their inconveniences seeking relief from her, a mother of three whose husband struggled at home working, while caring for and home schooling their brood. No. She had no slowdown. She was exhausted.

It hit me again. No one escaped this viral attack.

Clearly, we will each need to find our individual pathways to recovery.

*******

First real trip away from home since lockdown, took me back to my native Colorado.  Of course, to visit my beautiful sons living the life in the northern part of the state.  Time together with those I missed so much.  We spent time mostly eating our way from one local Mexican food spot to the next.  There was the hiking too.

Up the Cache le Poudre canyon, the river running high from runoff of melting snowpack, I witnessed the destruction of the wildfires from last summer.  Stopping to take in the scorched cottonwoods lining a wide curve at the base of a blacked bluff, my eyes filled with tears.  It had been a long 15 months of heartbreaking events, including this.  I thought of the terrified animals with nowhere to go in a narrow canyon of flames.

“It’s just so very sad,” I choked out.  I thought I understood the destruction from news reports.

“It’s okay,” my son said gently.  “It is mostly a healthy burn and will come back quickly.”

We passed a scattering of cabins that had miraculously survived.  Images of all those brave souls fighting the fires saving a few precious homes rose up.  Surrounding rock faces were soot covered and barren except for stands of black tree skeletons.  Long wide fire breaks hewn by many cut through the standing spires but did not hold.

We finally found a spot further past the burn for a hike at what was marked on the map as Sheep mountain.  My spirits lifted at the thought of spotting Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep.  I had seen a few mobs in the past but never had a chance to photograph them.

We took the steep barely a trail up past huge rocks impossible stacked.  I kept an eye out for rattlesnakes since it was warm and we were definitely in their habitat.  A small creek ran in the groove between looming rock formations.  That trickle would be gone soon with summer coming.

We had planned a good long hike, with my son checking out this new location for possible solo camping.  The steep incline opened up to a meadow that appeared to level off with the promise of a view.  Pellets of scat formed small piles as we followed the slight trail.  Evidence of mule deer, bighorn or mountain goats.  Nice.

Several large pines had fallen in years past around the meadow.  Bleached by the strong UV rays and little moisture, branches arced over like a natural arbor.  As we approached one large tree I suddenly stopped.  Under the skeleton limbs of a massive pine, there was a fur covered leg of either a goat or sheep.  It was still pink, though no blood or tissue remained.  I looked at my son who was also locked onto the torn appendage.

“This is where my friend Lori would say-yep it’s now time to turn around,” I told my son.

We both scanned the rock bluffs surrounding the meadow.  We knew eyes were on us. As we turned to head back, the remaining carcass sans head came into view.  Same condition.  I looked around again.

“Hey kitty, kitty,” I nervously muttered, wondering where he or she was perched calculating us as possible prey.

“At least there is a chance that cat is not hungry,” I said.

We carefully though quickly as possible picked our way down the steep terrain.  It was not a long hike today. Dopamines from exertion would be replaced by adrenaline this trip.

The following days were spent in Steamboat Springs with everyone.  Spring was happening with crabapples blooming, cottonwoods and aspen chartreuse with early leaves unfolding.

We strolled, laughed and enjoyed slow timing it.  It was a treat that restored us all just a little toward normalcy.   My spirit ached for these landscapes of half my life.  I had missed my mountains so very much.

I didn’t cry when I left.  It was just too good-our time together.  We were mostly outside, mostly unmasked and all fully jabbed.  Travel returning was still cautious with reminders to cover faces and stickers on the floor at the airport reminding to stay distant. It is not over yet.

********

Hugs have returned to my world. New manners to accommodate each other have admittedly been messy at times. I recently saw an old friend who had always been an affectionate soul. My enthusiasm to hug took him aback which I too late understood. I did the same thing myself a few weeks earlier. I almost recoiled when a doctor friend reached out to hug me. I was startled until realizing she was fully vaccinated and had returned to normal social touching for awhile now. I cried when she held me once I realized I was okay.

Most alarming has been a new friend who recently appeared in my life. He gave me a warm tender hug which became a full body embrace from lips to toes. My body hummed with delight mixed with something unfamiliar.  I couldn’t sleep that night and now find myself longing to run my hands along his strong shoulders waiting to feel his firm arms wrap me up again.

I hug long and with great care these days with everyone who feels safe enough to embrace.  Squeezing tight, forcing my gratitude for human touch into each encounter. Sometimes my eyes fill and my voice catches when our separated spirits meet so physically. Our excited bodies full of vibrating particles have been dancing six feet apart for way too long.

I pray the warmth and connection I feel right now in these body close greetings and goodbyes never become a casual exchange again. Ever.