“Ask Me No More,” by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912)
On our sojourn within the pages of Irish Firebrands, we’ve traveled on the tickets of the senses: smell, sight, hearing, and taste (as defined by references to food, cooking and eating, although there are also at least two references to gustatory function not associated with feeding). A few days ago, we introduced touch as a means of expressing and receiving love. I’ll expand the discussion of touching in this post.
The sense of touch is a complicated function of the body and mind that involves the ability of skin, mucous membranes and associated structures to detect and transmit stimuli that can be interpreted by the brain as infinite degrees of pressure, pain/pleasure, roughness/smoothness, wetness/dryness, heat/cold, etc. By now, it will come as no surprise that Irish Firebrands includes many references to touching, being touched, or an associated somatosensory stimulus. Here are a few examples from the first 3 chapters:
1. she couldn’t resist stroking the animal’s shaggy forelock.
2. she reached out to savour with her fingertips the surface of the irregular golden stones of the rustic wall
3. she lost her purchase on the edge of the window and slipped, striking her nose on the stone ledge.
4. She hung onto the windowsill with one hand and pinched her nostrils with the other.
5. When the pain and bleeding eased,
6. It was good to see Seán, in whose firm handshake Dillon felt more of a welcome than in Frank’s careless largesse.
7. She caught and righted the cup, but hot wax splashed on her skin.
8. The air was chilly, but the stones of the back wall of the house still held heat, and the radiating warmth made Lana feel as if the farmhouse were reaching out in welcome.
9. She bruised her shins upon the impedimenta that filled the musty darkness.
10. Shivering in the dank air,
11. Last night, she’d bathed in lukewarm water
12. Afterwards, chilled by the cold air on the landing,
13. Shivering in her pyjamas,
14. His long fingers engulfed her small ones, but her handshake was firm.
15. Lana patted the tree trunk beside her; then she ran her hand gently over the rough bark, drawing the tips of her fingers through the crevices.
16. Tottering, she laid a hand on his forearm and her head touched his biceps.
17. Dillon saw her shiver violently.
18. she ran her hands through those charming curls, twining their softness round her fingers–
19. cradling the warm mug in both hands,
20. she felt a burning blush flash from breast to brow.
21. She wasn’t cold at all, now, but she took the mug he proffered and downed a big swallow of hot tea.
22. Suddenly her palms felt damp and her mouth felt very dry.
23. There was only one swallow of tea left, and it was stone cold,
24. He tossed the damp towel into the linen basket
25. Then he picked up the blanket – and was startled to find that it felt warm–
26. There surged within him a devouring desire to touch and be touched – to hold and to be held – his arms and chest ached with the feeling.
27. He sank into the chair and gathered the blanket close, burying his face in its comforting folds.
28. Then reality faded a bit, and it was as if Lana stood there between his knees, with her arms round his neck, and his arms round her soft, warm body–
29. Why, it was positively absurd of him to think that her body had warmed the blanket, when he knew quite well that it felt warm only because the end of it had hung beside the heater.
30. Mamó would heat a brick atop the iron cooker, and then she’d put it in a flannel sack that he’d carry upstairs to his bed, to toast his toes while he fell asleep
There are 34 chapters in Irish Firebrands, so if the examples of the other senses hold true, there could be several hundred references throughout the book that have to do with different perceptions associated with the sense of touch.
Have you been checking your own writing for sensory input? What’s been your favorite sense to portray?
NB: This completes our exploration of sensory perception in Irish Firebrands.* The only thing that’s left is the “Sixth Sense” – but we probably ought to leave something to the imagination! 😉
* The PhD student who interviewed me for her dissertation about the experience of authoring a first novel, also asked about the literary device of sensory perception in my writing.
©2012-2014 by Christine Plouvier