While visiting my sister, we went out to the front yard barefoot because she believes we should all spend at least thirty minutes a day in contact with the earth. I watched her wander the herbs and vegetables, plucking a leaf here, tugging up a vegetable there, until her hands held our salad.

It reminded me how much I have always loved hands. Ironically, that same sister is now housebound, recuperating from an injury. She has a lot of time…on her hands…and sent me the following email. I have edited it because it’s a personal but you should still get the essence of her voice.

‘I look at my hands these days and think they belong to someone else! You always have told me how much you like my hands. Sometimes I wish they were stronger and could twist open jars and grab hold of this or that. I think they have been somewhat neglected at times as I love to dig in the soil and pull weeds without gloves. The feel of the dirt and plants, rocks, bugs, whatever! is delightful to me and gardening with gloves is like being blindfolded and watching the sunset!!! These days my nails are unbroken and even. The cuticles are nearly invisible. No cuts and scrapes and thorns!  I’d better get out there in the garden! I’ll ruin my hands’ uniqueness and personality….’

Hiking Beth

My absolute favorite picture of this sister, and it even shows her hands. Look at how they drape so gracefully, relaxed, capable, and confident

I’ve always liked hands, watching how they manipulate their world. How people touch things, for instance. Like the way a person will pick up something with thumb and middle finger instead of first finger and how that makes the object look different. I love watching the husband use tools, mill out lumber, cook dinner. And watching my sister knead dough. Her hands as if they could feed the world.


I like seeing how people choose to hold pencils and pens, how they tilt paper. I like watching another sister clean. She touches things almost cautiously, her hands moving toward an object slightly slower than expected, so that the object is given a sense of importance. So much more so than when I simply grab up whatever is nearby.

Zydeco 2

A nephew carrying his flower

This sister has the hands of a healer, even as she ironically now waits to heal. I asked her to pay attention to the way she touches equipment and patients when she returns to work. I’m willing to bet it’s the same way she approaches gardening. I’m willing to bet she’d rather touch without latex gloves.

Feet to earth, hands to souls.

I think my fascination comes from this weird phobia I have. It makes me anxious to have my hands still. If I can’t have something in them then I sit on them. To sleep they need to be weighed down, either under my husband or with part of the blanket wrapped tightly around them. It’s like I’ll float away or disappear if my hands aren’t grounded. As a passenger in a car, I hold the door handle or the emergency brake, or wrap my fingers up in the seatbelt. It took a few years for my husband to learn that wasn’t an opinion on his driving.

I think this is also why I picked my fingernails as a young child, peeling away the layers.

Mom and Lisa

Kept the fingers busy until I learned how to use a pencil. Until I learned how my hands could manipulate words.

4 thoughts on “Hands

  1. It sounds like your sister and I would get along fantastically. I was just in the garden this morning pulling weeds by hand… no gloves. My hands are far to strong and calloused from gardening to be dainty. I do use gloves and wear them so much I wear a new pair out each year, but I still prefer to use my bare hands. I see your fascination with hands. Hands are the hardest thing to get right when drawing or painting.


    • I actually thought about your garden when I read her message! Interesting about the difficulty in painting hands. I’d never thought about that. What makes it hard? The shape, the sizing in relationship to the body, or getting the character of the hand?


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