I’ve had hands on my mind for a couple of weeks now – yes, I know, what am I going to be thinking of next? But nevertheless I have collected a random harvest of hand images lately, including: Clair from Twysted Roots sharing a picture of her scratched hands as she was building up the spiky ended core of one of her wire trees; a volunteering friend who has an autoimmune condition which flares up regularly causing her to scratch her own hands resulting in a drawing of blood because they itch so very much – as demonstrated by all the red marks she showed me; and my own little share of stabbings in my hands from pins in the quilt I’ve been making.
And all that got me thinking about how precious our hands are in all manner of ways, and how much we can take them for granted, and how they have to serve us all through our lifetimes. Where would artists, sculptors, crafts people and writers be without them? And of course, by extension, out sense of touch? And think of the metaphorical symbolism of hands, exemplified by sayings like ‘giving someone a helping hand’, to ‘force someone’s hand’, ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’, ‘being given a free hand’, ‘to give a guiding hand’, ‘to gain the upper hand’. And for writers there’s the use of tactile descriptions to enhance the fictive dream, and the exploration of how much a pair of hands can reflect their owner’s life, past and present. So why not choose to describe the hands of a character to ‘show’ their life to the reader? Calluses and arthritic joints from hard labour, cosmetically immaculate hands with long nail extensions which never go naked near dishwater, or the pliable and robust hands of a person who gets things done?
Searching for some quotes to help me out with this was a case of very lean pickings indeed, but I found a few which demonstrate what I’m trying to say on the theme of hands and creativity – how hands are a vital part of creative work, practically speaking, while also being an extension of our inner spirit in our approaches and what we produce:
Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art. (Leonardo da Vinci)
Think of those fingers as abilities. A creative person may write, paint, sculpt, or think up math formulae; he or she might dance or sing or play a musical instrument. Those are the fingers, but creativity is the hand that gives them life. And just as all hands are basically the same – form follows function – all creative people are the same once you get down to the place where the fingers join. (Stephen King)
And this is on watching someone working with their hands, which I love to do when I get the chance, but am usually too busy using my own:
His hands are miracles. I can watch them for hours, transforming wood into something it never dreamed of being.(Katja Millay, The Sea of Tranquillity)
Some people read palms to tell your future, but I read hands to tell your past. Each scar makes a story worth telling. Each callused palm, each cracked knuckle is a missed punch or years in a factory. (American Poet, Sarah Kay)
The first time I was made aware of my own hands was by my piano teacher, as a girl. She said ‘You’re not one of these girls who likes to grow long nails, are you?’ Well, no I wasn’t, all to the good for not making clicking noises while tinkling the ivories! And my long fingers were considered a plus for spanning chords, just like my piano-playing Grandma, so I was told. In fact, I was also told that I’d probably ‘inherited’ her hands. I enjoyed crafts at this time too and did a wee bit of drawing and painting.
The second time my hands asserted themselves in my life, was when I was around the age of 18 to 19. I had gone to study human physiology, and during all the inevitable note taking, which was stultifying boring, and having to endure the unexpected physics and maths, which was intimidatingly complex (how was I to learn all this stuff?)…I began to get a nasty writer’s cramp in my right hand which I’d never had before. And looking back I can see it was probably a psychosomatic reaction to the fact that I really and truly should have been studying or practicing art or a humanity subject. It was a warning, but I ignored it until my heart charged in one day and said to me – get out of this! I duly did, emotionally and messily, and then began drawing and painting in earnest. Needless to say, the writer’s cramp went away.
But still, I was persuaded to continue with science, and still, I let my head bully my heart. Since I had no art training whatsoever and needed a job, I was advised by career guidance to forget about becoming an artist and find a lab job instead. I duly did so and got through the interview by sheer mental willpower, with the dubious reward of being deemed highly suitable. But I was hampered by some kind of weird anxiety reaction (or spiritual insight, depending on your point of view) two days after I started the job. The thought behind the anxiety running through my mind was this: ‘I don’t want my hands to be doing this kind of thing. This is not what my hands are for!’ ‘This kind of thing’ would have been manipulating pipettes and other lab equipment in a sterile environment, where every thought would have to be given to safe practice and a minimising of contamination, wearing a white cotton coat and a series of rubber gloves. Is this starting to make sense now? It would be restrained, lacking in expression, using your hands simply to function like the appendages of a robot, following prescribed procedures, with nothing else required and no real personal input. My heart had its say once again in a dramatic fashion, and I left the job immediately – once again running away in peril for my soul.
Moving on to me married and ‘settled down’. While working in a department store on a soft furnishing department (the setting for my next novel) in which my hands relished measuring out and rolling up lengths of fabric in the days before machines ‘rollers’ were used, my spare time became filled with sewing and embroidery projects and a brand new passion for gardening and getting my hands all grimy with soil. Then there was the stripping and sanding of second hand furniture, and learning how to make picture frames, until finally, at last, I came back to drawing and painting, which was what I loved as a girl in primary school. So by this time, I knew I was someone who ‘liked to work with their hands’ and that I loved detail, and so the beginning of my life as an artist was truly born, my hands were finally happy, and coming to creative writing years later on my very own ‘artist’s way’ was something I could so easily embrace.
So hands can reflect our creativity and our very lives. They can form an integral part of our very nature and passions and can mould our lives in this way. They can make some magic, and so ‘touch’ some kind of light, as well as help us enjoy the more earthly pleasures of nature, by simply touching the growing tips in a field of oats. They can be used for healing others and the use of them in a particular way can heal oneself.
(pics from Pixabay)