Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hands: Short Pieces on a Theme

I place my hands upon the body and it speaks. It tells me things. Things. Secrets, that sometimes make no sense, but still I listen. These hands follow this divinely inspired road map, they fold and unfold, following tiny lines that form large pockets of blue. Water. In the water the path can change. One drop at a time moves mountains, clears away muck that’s been stuck for too long. We walk together, my hands and this body gracing my table. Energy arises when hands touch the body. Our energy together, sparks movement of flesh covering bone. And flesh is the vehicle. The vehicle on the journey which follows the divinely guided road map. And I, I place my hands upon this body and it speaks.
    - AniIyah Christina Klock

There is a person who has no idea what they've done. There is a person who has no idea that because of them, I have a bruise on the back of my hand that's been there since last Thursday. There is a person in the state of Texas who called my sister's phone in all innocence, probably intending to talk to their Great Aunt Jerry who lives in Trumansburg or Syracuse or Elmira. There is a person who, I am sure, has no idea that during the time in which their great aunt didn't pick up, I was carrying my sister's phone into the playroom, wondering who the heck could be calling us from Texas. There is a person who doesn't realize that after the phone stopped ringing, as I was walking back to the living room, I banged my hand on my portable ballet barre hard enough to send aches shooting through my arm. There is a person who has no idea that any of this ever happened. There is a person who is guilty in all of their innocence.
    - Caroline Gates-Lupton

I was thinking about the importance and significance of my right hand today, as I realized how connected I feel from my eyes to my brain through my heart to my pen held tightly by the grasp of my fingers and balanced by my wrist — skating across the page as the commanding signals march their orders through my muscles, my tissues, my consciousness, my mind's eye — awaiting inspiration, pouncing on thought, listening to the words hanging in the air — controlling the lines that form the letters that make the words that form a phrase or sentence as a thought congeals and then transforms. They move the pencil through drawings sketches images symbols too, and put something from thin air into 2D dimensions which feeds back a loop to my eyes my mind my thoughts my heart my feelings — sometimes surprising me with content or form but also with complexity. I am so very grateful for my right hand and its dutiful obedience, faith, work, trust, and being. — The scribe.
    - Chris Carstensen

Papito was my great-grandfather. I met him when I was younger than 10 and he was real old. Like close to 100. I remember sitting next to him on a couch in my aunt's living room. He would rest his hands on his lap and I would stare at the veins popping out of his bony hands. To me, his veins looked like small roads, and some big roads, traveling up and down the top of his hands toward fingers and wrists. Sometimes I would hold his hand and touch the veins and press on them. They would move and something about the holding of Papito's hand was soothing to me. I look back at this memory and I think about how kind he was to just let me be, not saying a word, just letting me sit beside him holding his hand.
    - Deb R.

Why do wedding rings go on the left hand? Why is it called your ring finger? Why do we feel it necessary to adorn our hands with rings? Why do we shake hands with someone as a greeting? Why do we lend a helping hand? When someone pleases us why do we give them a hand?
    - Donna DiCostanzo

My hands have undergone changes throughout the years. First of all, they are very small with short fat fingers. That's just so that you will know them if they come your way. As a child, and into young adulthood, I played piano and violin, and both of my teachers were strict about their no-long-nails policy. When I began  to get into my teen years I tried to grow my nails just a little (and even got on a fingernail polishing jag for a while), but then it was time to buckle down, so I would file them to within an inch of their lives. Later on, after I gave up playing an instrument, I experimented with different length nails, and now I just grow them until they break and get all jaggedy and uneven. And then I start over again.
    - Gabrielle Vehar

When I was in high school I thought I wanted to become a doctor, so my parents introduced me to their friend's daughter who was in medical school. Phoebe was her name and she talked about her Gross Anatomy class, the examination of a cadaver, the first course in med school. She asked me to guess which part of the dead body affected her the most. I thought it must be the face, perhaps the heart. No, she said, it was his hands that made me cry as I cut them and examined them. Hands, she said, are for hugging; they are what you hold when you are a child and need comfort. They do your work and they are needed to help you eat. Hands are the most human part of a person with the opposable  thumbs that are unique to our species. I didn't become a doctor  but I have always remembered a young doctor's view of human hands.
    - Greta Singer

When I was little, my father would hold me in his lap and examine my hands. He would feel for bones and pronounce that I had none. He said he hoped my hands would remain soft and squishy for the rest of my life. Well, I guess rebellion can take many forms, for now my hands are nothing but bone and big, protruding knuckles. I equated soft, squishy hands with being a child and having no power, so I think I willed the bones to form. Sorry, Dad, but now my hands are my favorite part of me.
    - Janie Nusser

I am looking at my hands. My dear precious hands. It’s so nice to be able to see my hands, to behold them and thank them. My very own hands. Many, many years ago I had a laparoscopy for endometriosis. They dropped a little camera "down there" and drilled a few little holes in my tummy for a knife and the movie of my surgery was made. After the (successful) surgery in which the doctor told me if I wanted to avoid another surgery I should get pregnant, they handed me my movie. When I first saw my uterus with three small fibrous mounds on them, I cried. “There! There is my uterus, so precious though wounded as she is.” And here are my hands, aging as they are. And it’s not because they are so essential to how I express myself as a harpist and a pianist that I feel so speechlessly in love with them. It’s simply because the space around them is so beautiful.
    - Jayne Demakos

Together Ruth and I carefully washed my grandmother’s body clean of its struggle and clothed her in a simple cotton  dress. Water sloshed in her lungs as we moved her to different positions. When I took my hands away, I could see my fingerprints on her skin: prints like phases of the moon. Every detail was there, even the print of the scar on my right index finger which I had cut as a teenager while  throwing a broken glass telegraph insulator into the lake. I remembered running the mile home with blood spurting from that finger and how Luie had gripped it firmly and plunged it into a glass of green soap and hot water to clean the wound. We had arranged that Luie would not go to a funeral home, but instead be taken directly from our house to our family plot. When I lifted and placed her heavy body into the coffin, I imagined my prints must still be there. I folded her hands over her stomach with great care, then stepped back for the men to close the lid.  "Into Thy Hands I commend your spirit.” My own hands throbbed like two stunned birds. Not empty exactly, but hollow. Hollow like a drum.
    - John Lyon Paul

“Keep your hands to yourself.” In my years as an education evaluator, spending many hours observing in classrooms, I realized that this may be the primary learning objective for kindergarteners and other young students. Teachers spend inordinate amounts of time and energy compelling their charges to sit still on the mat and not touch each other. It isn’t respectful to hit or even touch someone else; each person has their own space and control over their own body. Hands are for practical skills like writing, holding things, and eating. It might make much more sense to instead teach kindergarteners about the miracles resulting from “the laying on of hands.”
    - Julia Ganson

Claire wrote a poem once; I found it by chance among some papers scattered on the dining room floor. She said my hands always smelled of tea. I held that scrap of sensory connection to my beloved daughter to my heart, through the tough years of her need for stern separation. Nowadays my hands still smell of tea. Like my grandmother's, whose morning ritual — warm pot, add leaves, boiling water, steep — I long ago adopted as my own. In appearance, too, my hands astonishingly morphed into those of an aging woman. Where I am able mostly to avoid direct confrontation with the effects of gravitational pull on face and body, my hands are always in my sight. And they mark the passage of time for me in a way I find both alarming and somewhat tender. Like Claire's ability to feel my familiarity and warmth through the code of scent, I link myself to the family members whose hands I've known so well, and loved. (Even Claire's hands, now 30 years in use, are acquiring the character bestowed by passage of time.)
    - Kate Halliday

My grandmother's hand were thick peasant hands, fingers all the same shape and thickness, rounded neat nails clipped short. Good for kneading bread and working the chocolate, picking olives, and praying. She had a hand mirror on her dressing table and she would sit there each night combing her long gray hair, twisting it into a bun and then using the hand mirror to inspect her work. Tilting the mirror this way and that and turning on the stool she sat upon for just the right angle — to make sure all the stray hairs were tucked in, to make sure the bun would last the night, hands turning and tucking and poking all the little hairs in place. I don't remember those hands caressing me or patting my head but I do remember them praying, lighting the candles, wringing the worry beads — apricot-colored beads about the size of Chiclets gum, strung together on a gold chain with an apricot-colored tassel hanging from the end. hands for praying, for wrapping, for kneading.
    -Katherine May

The warmth of my husband's hands as he touches my neck and face while kissing me: I am safe. The coolness of my mother's hand touching my fevered forehead when I was a little girl: I am cared for. The connection I felt as I held my father's hand while he was dying: we are one. The blissful love I feel when my daughter reaches for and holds my hand in public: I am perfect. The divine healing that flows through my hands, to those I love: I am blessed.
    - Kyna Alexander

Her hands look thinner now. The veins run as beautiful curving hills with smooth valleys in between. Her skin soft as silk, drapes over purple and blue veins. Long slender fingers, grasp. I can hold her hand in mine and feel it cool, its slightness not holding heat well. She gives mine a little squeeze. The wrinkles in that smooth skin shift about as her hand moves. And these are her dancing hands. If we sing, when Saoirse plays the fiddle, and Aaron plays the banjo, or even just dancing to the mood in the room or a playful thought: like little sparrows these hands flit and flutter through the air, a smile lighting up her face.
    - Leah Grady Sayvetz

When I was little I used to watch my fingers to see if I could see them growing. I'm not sure why this was. My mother's friends used to comment, "Oh, she's growing so fast," when they would see me, and when I'd get home I'd stretch out my hands and watch my index finger to see if it spontaneously grew outward. It never happened, though.
    - Liz Burns

Fingernails are scratching a message on the window screen, but I can't decode it! Is it a warning of danger, a plea for help on this dark night? My cat stirs. Cautiously I take my arm out from under the covers and cup her warm head. The dialogue continues —louder and more insistent! I creep to the window with Poe-like resolve, push out the screen and grab the offending hands — breaking and crushing the thin, dead branch.
    - Louise Vignaux

I used to hate it when cheesy announcers would say "Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for . . ." (and then the name of a celebrity.) Why doesn't he say "clap" or "applaud," I wondered. However, when each of my grandchildren got to the age where he or she wanted to perform, I started encouraging them to get up on the coffee table, and while they wrestled with a little guitar or got in position to dance, I found that saying that phrase delighted them. They seemed to love the idea of "putting hands together" for this fun reason. So I ended up repeating it over and over while they giggled and  jumped and sometimes toppled off the table. I was there to catch them. With my grandma's hands.
    - Margaret Dennis

My grandmother came here, to this country, from what was then Austria, later called Czechoslovakia, then the Czech Republic. Her English was difficult to understand, it was heavily infused with Slavic overtones. I remember her in a general sense as cold, perhaps because communication was difficult. All of my siblings agree that there was one exception — her hands. She would take us to the sink in the kitchen, with a bar of Ivory soap, and ever so gently she'd envelop our  tiny hands in hers and wash — slowly, softly, warmly. There were no verbal "I love you's" or other traditional displays of affection with Babicka, except for the deep loving affection shown in the transference of love from her hands to mine.
    - Margaret Snow

"What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Someone asked me that when I was a young girl, then stood there with a grin on his face, waiting for my answer. "Fingers in the wind, of course," I answered, as I ran off to climb a tree.
    - Marty Blue Waters

Writing hands, speaking hands, thinking hands, walking hands. Hands in my pocket, on your face, touching my face, my elbow, my chin. Hands over here, hands over there, hands everywhere. It occurred to me the other day how smart hands really are. So quick to decide and know what to do. On days when I feel absolutely sluggish, both mentally and physically, my hands seem to be incredibly smart. My brain goes "Oh, I don't know, I can't decide what I want to do today." My hands go "Quick! Save the boy from the passing car, pick up the thing you dropped, wave at the person you know, clear this table and do your dishes."
    - Mary A. Roberts

All hands on deck. This is not a drill. Secure all hatches. Mind your stations. This is the Captain speaking. Again, this is not a drill. — (Seconds later) — Hand over the fire hose sailor, there is a fire in the boiler room. I think we were struck by a torpedo on the port side. — (The Chief Petty Officer was pointing with this left hand.)
    - Mike Schaff

Hands in my family usually end up twisted by arthritis. When I was young I didn't know what that meant but I was well aware of my grandfather's fingers and the difficulty he had picking up pails of grain to feed his chickens. His fingers didn't exactly curve to fit the bend of the pail's handle. In fact they didn't much curve at all. He had no control over the directions his fingers bent. The same fate befell my father. His finger joints became knobby. His fingers bent however they wanted. He had trouble playing the piano. And now the same is starting to happen to me. When I sit in meditation I can see that my fingers do not rest neatly next to each other. The swollen joints are starting to cause my fingers to veer off-center. In the end the fingers of my hands will do as they wish. All I can do is breathe into their twists and turns.
    - Nancy Osborn

Hand me down all that I own, hand me down my walking cane, hand me down chord and tone, hand me down all the same. Hand me down a patch to sew, hand me down a ticket for the train, hand me down a place to go, hand me down when I'm on the wane.
    - Rob Sullivan

As I age my hands become more twisted and thicker. Working hands, not pretty hands. No rings, no polish. Nails cut short and kept clean. I wash my hands frequently, aware of cross-contamination at work; washing off dog smells at home. My hands are deft with a watercolor brush, with a knife, with folded paper chains, with a pen on paper.
    - Sara Robbins

When I was about 9 years old, I read a book about palm-reading. I found out that the left hand represents your potential, and the right hand shows what will actually happen. On my left hand, my life line was broken into two parts by my fate line. I thought I might die accidentally and be brought back to life, around mid-life. On my right hand, my life line was barely cut apart, and when I brought my pinky to my thumb, the gap disappeared. This gave me hope, suggesting that I might not have that terrible accident after all. Then I forgot about palm-reading for years. Yesterday I checked again. My left still has the severed life line, but now my right fate line passes through my life line; a bubble has formed at the center where the two interlink. Yes, I had my near-death experience, and survived. But it looks like smooth sailing from now on, life and fate peacefully intertwined.
    - Sharon K. Yntema

My left hand was injured in a horseback riding accident. I was where I shouldn't have been, inexperienced with horses, following an old cowhand for my job with the U. S. Forest Service. There was little forest around us, but in that moment we were riding up a mesquite bosque and my horse ducked under a branch, pulling me right along. My left hand reached out instinctively and the tree tore into it, the flesh and the nerves. Many miles from the trailhead, I looked down in disbelief.
    - Sheila Dean

It started with puberty, which cannot be a coincidence. Having been a psychologist in a prior incarnation, I can assure you it is a disorder of the compulsive form. My euphemism for it is "ragged cuticles," which enables me to ignore precisely how they get that way. Over the years, I've defeated the habit for months at a time, but always backslide. It isn't rare or dangerous, just inconvenient. Nail polish helps. It serves as a visual cue. The downside is that color may draw more attention to the hands.
    - Sue Crowley

I've always loved my hands. They don't gain weight like the rest of me. They work for me and make my life easy. So imagine how scared and confused I was when they stopped working. My fingertips were numb and tingly, I couldn't button my sweaters, my handwriting deteriorated, my husband Mike had to put my earrings on me (I also like and admire my ears), and I had to use two hands to put on my lipstick — very slowly. Turns out I needed a cervical laminectomy to fix this situation.
    - Sue Perlgut

Sometimes I look at my hands and wonder if I would ever recognize them in a photo. Maybe — maybe the backs of my hands. But I don't think I could pick out the palms if they were presented in a line-up. That seems odd to me. My hands are right in front of me absolutely in view for hours every day. There is dinner to prepare and my hands are holding the knife for chopping the onions, the spoon for stirring the batter, the tea towel for drying the big green bowl. I pat the cats with my hands. I drive the car, I write, I empty the dishwasher, maybe I even manage to text, feeling very clever and up-to-date, using my thumbs to type. But I do not see the palms of my hands, the pillowy bit at the base of my thumb, the lines (possibly prophetic) that run like roads — I do not know them.
    - Susan Lesser

When I was about 27 and between jobs, the temp agency called me with an unusual offer. A department store wanted someone to model gloves. I arrived at the store early, wandered around, and finally managed to locate the hat, scarf, and gloves section. The contact, Shirley, popped out from a back room, led me to an empty display case lined with white cloth where a boom-box played upbeat music. She asked me to select a few pairs of gloves to model. "I don't understand. How should I model them?" "Just sit behind the counter with your hands inside the case and let your fingers keep time to the music. Have fun with it!" For the next few hours, my gloved hands danced under the glass.
    - Theresa A. Cancro

Almost 90 years ago, when my grandmother was pregnant with her twins, her fingers began to swell and she took her wedding ring off. She put it someplace for safe keeping, but after the babies were born Grandma couldn't remember where that safe place was. She searched everywhere for the ring, in every corner of every room, in every cupboard and drawer and cabinet. She looked under cups; she looked behind tchotchkes. No wedding ring. Not any place. For the rest of her life Grandma's fingers, on the left hand and the right hand, remained ringless. Once I asked my mother if she thought Grandma never really wanted to find the ring. Was it possible she felt a sense of freedom without it? "Don't be ridiculous," my mother said. But I always had my suspicions.
    - Zee Zahava

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Numbers: Short Pieces on a Theme

It seems like can opener will be forever written in red dry erase marker up on the whiteboard in our kitchen. We've gone through twenty-two-and-a-half can openers so far. The "half" part is because Mom and Dad can't decide whether to scrap the one we have now. I can hear them arguing about it in the kitchen this very minute. Maybe we should just get a screwdriver or a hammer or something. One of those would work well enough, wouldn't it?
    - Caroline Gates-Lupton

What age am I, inside? Twenty-seven. I feel 27. I dream 27. That was the year I felt like an adult. I felt beautiful. I felt free. I felt brave. I had left a bad relationship. I quit an uninspiring, soul-sucking job. I joined the Peace Corps, stuffed my belongings in a backpack and flew to Africa, learned to play the guitar (poorly), looked death in the face (really), and walked away (gratefully). It’s been hard for other years to measure up. So I carry that year with me, every year. Still.
    - Edna S. Brown

Already, at sixteen, I was afflicted with affectations: gold-nibbed Waterman fountain pen to sign journal entries. (Single first initial. Period.) Lady Chatterley’s annual vernal reading — unexpurgated. I had a dog named MacDuff and a tree named Salix that wept. I kept a pet persona, nose-in-the-book brown-noser (Ahh, straight A's. Again.), but invested in the chase. Boys. One boy. Minus adolescent guises, I was the sort who would write, e.g., October 19th,1968 entry: I learn that David yearns for me as far as tears and yet — he will not have me. I’ve closed my heart.
    - Karla Linn Merrifield

I grew up on simple street. #101. I’d say it to myself before I fell asleep. I used to think of that number and its shape as part of my identity. It was a balanced family home, with strong supports on either side and an always open door in the middle class neighborhood. Our family was comfortable and secure. Suddenly I felt the columns fall when my dad decided to buy his brother's home in fancy-schmancy. We moved into #33. All curly and looking only one way. My dad left us there off balance and I toppled into adulthood too fast and stopped counting.
    - Kath Abela Wilson

There was a bulge in her forearm that stuck out like a bullfrog’s throat. She had gotten it caught in an old ringer washing machine when she was a little girl and now at 79, that bulge was big and puffy, and we all wanted to touch its squishiness and poke it down. From her sunken chin, throat strings stretched like the parallel lines of a rope bridge. The softest dried skin hung in fleshy narrows from her upper arms.  But it was her smell that we remembered as we
stepped through the door of the now empty kitchen.
    - Katherine May

I don't have OCD. Some people would say I do if they knew about my counting. I don't count everything, just important things like the number of stairs to the basement. It is thirteen steps down and, hopefully, thirteen steps back up. This is important to verify each time I go down. You know something is wrong in the universe if the count doesn't match. That's just being aware, not compulsive. And if the numbers don't match? I go down and up again and again until they do match. I want to live in a safe universe.
    - Lance R. Robertson

58, that's how old I am. Although I forgot one day last week and thought I was 59.
    - Liz Burns

For years, every Saturday afternoon at four o'clock, a bit of anxiety hit me. I finally realized that this was because of a lingering childhood memory of having to walk to St. Paul's Church to attend weekly confession. I had to time my arrival just right. A little bit later and the huge presence of Father Murphy would be encountered outside, ostensibly saying his daily prayers, but with a keen eye out for sinful stragglers. Once inside, faced with the problem of never having committed actual sins, I would make some up, so I could safely confess that I had lied. Then I'd push aside the dusty velvet curtains of the confessional, knees still shaking, and say my penance in the most heartfelt manner I could muster. The world was right again, until the same time the following week.
    - Margaret Dennis

I have a daily ritual I've grown to love: climbing the steps of our three-story house. Up 5 steps and I'm at the front door. 10 more steps take me to the landing where there are hanging chimes I like to listen to. 6 more steps and I'm at the second floor apartment door where the love of my life lives. Up 8 more steps and I'm at the landing where I shed my coat and shoes. The final 7 steps bring me to my paradise apartment on the top floor. An  ancient friend greets me there. He is a stone turtle named Joe, and he moves slowly, even for a turtle.
    - Marty Blue Waters

One of those nights long ago. My dinner on a snack table . . . one of four. Watching the Zenith, turning the numbers on the dial. Every channel showing nothing but loss. Body counts, battles raged and lost. MIAs (Missing In Action). A knock at the door. I hear a voice say "Ricky died in Nam." My friend seventeen, myself fourteen.
    - Pat Geyer

8, 11, 15, 22, 28, and if a sixth number is needed, 41. From a numerology perspective, the first group equals 3. Add the last number in and it's 8. Those are my “numbers” — representing birthdays and anniversaries. I did the numerology thing to find “the” number and for the past fifty years I have been playing all or some combination of them in lotteries or similar games of chance. And I have won bupkis! I guess I'm just lucky in love.
    - Rainbow Crow

1 is not the loneliest number. The loneliest number is 2 when 1 is missing. Missing in spirit, missing in will, missing in care. 3 is a number that carries with it great potential, but also risk. Will it become a crowd or give birth to a trinity? 4 is a holy number in most world religions. An even, solid, stable number. The basis for belief perhaps in directions and meanings beyond the ordinary.
    - Sue Crowley

Braylyn, who is 3 years old, asked me what is my watch for, as he grabbed it off my wrist and put it on his tiny little arm. I said it's to tell the time. Why, he asked. I thought about it. So many ways to answer such a profound question. I thought about whether time even exists or is it just a construct. But knowing he needs order and routine in his life I said to him: So you can tell when it's lunch time, when it's bath time, when it's bedtime. He looked deeply into my eyes. I could see him thinking and taking it in. In that moment he went from timelessness to a world of numbered restrictions.
    - Yvonne Fisher

My grandparents lived at 861 Elsemere Place, in an apartment on the second floor of a six-story building. One day I was daydreaming as I climbed the stairs and I walked right past their floor. I knocked on the door that I assumed was theirs, but it was the apartment one flight up. When a strange man answered the door I asked what he was doing in my grandparents' apartment. He said "Come in, little girl," but I could see that all the furniture was different. I stood there in the hallway and screamed until Grandma heard me and came running up to get me.
    - Zee Zahava