Hands. They are there. At the end of our arms. Human hands are made up of 27 bones, 29 joints and at least 123 ligaments. I looked down at my hands when I read this. Slowed down. Took a break. And said thank you to my amazing hands.
The fingers on one hand are bent and stretched about 25 million times over the course of a lifetime. Our hands also have very sensitive “antennae” for receiving information from the environment: There are a total of 17,000 touch receptors and free nerve endings in the palm. These pick up sensations of pressure, movement and vibration, so it is with good reason that the sense of touch is often associated with the hand. The skin on our fingertips is especially sensitive to touch.
I don’t normally give much thought to my hands. We are so used to having them and doing with them. But hands are more than just practical and diverse. They’re symbolic. Hands can represent giving, and love. But also taking and hatred. We hold our hands in prayer, in protest, in surrender. We hold someone else’s hand. With hands, we offer comfort or slap a cheek. We can hold our head in our hands or hold our hands above our heads and dance. We feed ourselves, we feed others, we wave, we say goodbye. We draw our hands to our mouths in laughter and in tears.
With our hands we can drive a car. Feed ourselves and feed others. Plant a tree. Water a flower. Pick up berries and tomatoes from our garden. Touch the grass and feel its texture. Pick a rock. Close our hand and feel its smoothness. Pet Serafina the cat and feel her furry coat. Turn on a lamp. Turn on the heat without realizing how incredibly lucky we are to have heat. Tap a rhythm, clap at a performance.
I love hands. I love all kinds of hands: chubby hands, baby hands, elderly hands that tell decades-long stories. I love wrinkly hands, hands with age spots, hands that have been used and loved. Mechanic’s hands, gardener’s hands, rough hands. I loved my dad’s massive hands that offered comfort and strength – you also knew not to mess up or those hands would be felt on your behind. I remember my Abu Elsa’s hands holding a needle or a book. My Abu Leon’s hands holding his pipe. I miss my Abu’s hands. I do. Because their hands were symbols of who they were, who they are still, in my memories.
I look at my hands and think of my mom’s delicate yet strong hands. My hands are like my mom’s: veiny and beginning to show signs of age. But I’m OK with that. With my hands, I google stuff to research. I text. I call friends to share news. My hands are tools to turn a page, to scroll and swipe. My hands hold a pencil to write which I’d rather do than type. They also hold a brush, paint, get messy and covered in colourful paint splatters. And then my hands get rewarded with a manicure and I feel special (and thankful) when I watch my hands on the steering wheel.
My hands touch fabric and feel its different textures. They can tell the difference between linen and silk, cotton and tulle, burlap and velvet. They hold a needle, and thread the thread through (sometimes it takes a few tries, but that’s not my hands’ fault). My hands take a stitch and then others. A repetitive movement I don’t think about. I just look at my hands stitching. And take it for granted.
My hands move blocks around on the design wall and create a pattern. Take one from here and move it there. They grip the blocks and place them in the sewing machine and feed the blocks through. They smooth the fabric and finger press the seams to one side, or open. My hands guide the quilt sandwich under the needle slowly and carefully in a methodical rhythm that feeds the soul. They create designs in straight lines, circles, squiggles, long sweeping lines of stitching guided by my two hands while my mind wanders and my thoughts clear. My hands make. Objects that come from my mind and through my hands they become reality. I think of the role of my hands in creating objects to hold and use and share.
Take a moment. Take a breath, look at your hands and appreciate them. Think of all that they do for you and then let them do for others too. Whatever you do with your hands, may that action, more than anything, spread love. And above all, let your hands keep creating.
Until I write again …