October 12, 2011


I wake briefly at five: the full moon has broken through the clouds and its light is pouring over moving boxes, the shining covers of library books, a glittering glass on the bedstand. Then, as I watch, the moon sinks below the stand of trees to the west, and everything dims again to the ordinary city glow. I fall asleep again.

At seven I wake again, wander out to the bathroom. Tori intercepts me on my way back: can I help wake Mom? They need to be going at 7:30.

I make affirmative noises. I can't remember what they have to do, or why Tori is here. But I can wake Martha. I begin with the shoulders, sliding a hand under each scapula in turn, to loosen it up as I work the traps and the back of the neck. Then the arms and the hands, and back again, the pecs and anterior neck, some brief face work, then down the breastbone, over the abs to work the quads and adductors – pushing one of my pajama-ed thighs under hers to serve as a bolster – and the calves, on to the feet. The metatarsal of the big toe gives a satisfying click as it shifts, and Martha gives one of those involuntary groans that tells you you've hit the sweet spot. I'm not really very awake, but I don't need to be. I pay special attention to the feet and work my way back up. Catch the lower back by reaching under – always my favorite route to the QL and the lumbar paraspinals. She's waking, slowly but surely, and finally she turns over on her side. I find myself up on my knees, with a wide stance, working the rich field between the sacrum and the greater trochanter with paired thumbs. There's that trigger point. I'm rounding up the usual suspects. I roll her over and do the other side, and I finish by coming back to the hands, twining my fingers in hers to spread the metacarpals apart and get to the little interosseous muscles that sit between them.

I check the clock. It's been fifteen minutes, and I've done a creditable full body massage. When I worked at the East-West clinic I used to hate trying to cram a full body massage into an hour. I know a bit more now than I did then, but mostly it has to do with knowing the body I'm working with so well: that and not having to fiddle with drapes or lubricants, and not having to worry about steering around breast and vulva. Makes me realize how much time and attention I have to put in, “tying in” different areas of the body by circuitous routes, when I work with clients. We pay for having taboo areas of the body: we pay in time and attention, we pay in a loss of somatic unity. I know, Esalen and the Revolution are history, and we meekly accept the boundaries of a fallen world. But like Galileo, I permit myself to mutter, “still, it does move,” as I leave the court.

Martha's awake and grateful. People scurry to and fro, collecting what they need for work and school. The moon has gone wandering far to the west, hanging now huge over pre-dawn Hawaii, I suppose, and scattering trails of glory over the ocean. Morning and the workaday world, here. And coffee calling me, like a thrush singing in the yard.


  1. At first, I thought my Holy Grail was experiencing a good night of sleep post-massage or post-yoga but now I want a sunrise massage. Lucky Martha…

  2. Hi 'Drea!

    When I first started my practice, I advertised that I'd do morning massage, in-home, and I never got a single nibble. I think it's a wonderful way to start the day, myself! But it's just not how most people think of massage, I guess.

    I have a client with her own table who just drifts in and out of sleep. When I'm done I just quietly let myself out.

  3. What a great gift for mom. I enjoyed your article Dale, thanks.

  4. Thanks Robin! Lovely to see you here! :-)