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