Lately I have been reading a lot of poetry, both for The Book and for teaching, and reading poetry is always a very sensuous experience to me. Also, of course, it is the run-up to Valentine's Day, which means there is a lot of love-related stuff floating around. For some reason this combined to make me think about touches and gestures of love, and tonight while I was brushing my teeth it occurred to me that I think the most intimate and loving gesture in the world is a hand cupped around someone's cheek. Not the way you do it to a friend, although I suppose the only difference between the way you do it to a friend and the way you do it to someone you love is that you love the person you're doing it to when you do it to a person you love. But, anyway, I mean specifically when you do it to someone you love.
Cupping your hand around someone's cheek is a resting gesture. It says, "I'm not hurrying. I want to rest my hand here and feel you; I want to take this minute to enjoy you." Also, it somehow means, "I am aware of you; I am experiencing you," perhaps because it's a hard gesture to perform without also looking at the person. And then, the face is quite vulnerable, and wrapping your hand around anything is a gesture of protection if not of harm, in a way. Then, too, the cheek is soft (even in men), and the palm of the hand is sensitive and often soft, too, and having a cheek under your whole hand (palm, fingers, and thumb) means that all parts of your sensitive feeling instrument are covered in something that calls forth intimacy. And it's a quiet moment; it has to be, because you have to take the time and care to cup gently rather than to grab or even just to lay.
But now I realise that the cupped palm is the gesture of supplication in love, the shape we make to some extent when we hold out our hand to be held or to take a hand, the gesture that means, "Accept me." So the filled palm is the gesture of love fulfilled, and the palm fully filled, and allowed to rest, is I guess the most fulfilled of all.