Monday, November 12, 2012
I love hands. One of the first thing I look at on people is their hands. They tell me so much about a person. Strong hands, delicate hands, wrinkles and lines, callouses, arthritis, manicures, scars. There are so many stories that can be told by looking at a person's hands.
My father's hands were strong and even when he had to manage with Parkinson's, he continued to work with his hands to keep any flexibility possible. I see those hands gripping a pulpit on Sunday morning as he preached, or pulling a hook out of the mouth of a fish. They strum a guitar or grasp a hammer. In small ways, they can be seen in my hands.
My mother's hands were beautiful. She never had manicures or did anything special with them, but they were always feminine with strength and beauty. She used her hands to spank my bottom and wash my hair. I remember her hands flying across a typewriter or covered in clay at her potter's wheel. She held paintbrushes in those hands and sewed late into the night. Her hands were everywhere in my life.
I remember my Grandma Greenwood's hands, as she washed dishes, kneaded bread, put clothes out on the line, played games with me or held my little hand in hers. I remember the hands of my friends, while they age, they never change. I would recognize their hands in a heartbeat.
Last week, I used a picture of hands holding the world in one of my Pour Out a Blessing blogposts. I had actually found many different images, but the one I used struck me because of the hands. These aren't perfectly manicured, but are strong, hard-working hands. The type of hands I believe God has. His hands would be rough and worn from the work they do, they would be gentle and strong so He can touch our hearts.
I've always loved the image of gnarled hands clasped in prayer. Albrecht Durer's "Praying Hands" drawing is one of my favorites and there is a beautiful story that has been told around this image. The story is told of Durer and his brother. They came from a family of eighteen. Both brothers were talented artists, but the family could only afford to send one to Nuremberg to study. The two, after many discussions, worked out a pact. A coin toss would settle which one went first, while the other worked in the mines to support him. After four years, the brother would return. Either sales of his art or work in the mines would support the second brother in his studies. Albrecht Durer won the coin toss and left for Nuremberg while Albert spend four years in the mines, ensuring payment of his brother's education.
After the four years had passed, a celebration was held to celebrate Albrecht's return. At dinner, he told his brother that it was now his turn to pursue his dream, but Albert began to cry. It was too late. Work in the mines had smashed every one of the bones in his hands, some more than once. He could barely hold a glass, much less draw with a pen or brush. It was too late. In honor, Albrecht Durer drew those damaged hands as he regularly saw them, in prayer.
Whether the story is true, the beauty of this drawing remains for me.
I've watched my own hands age. They are no longer smooth, but are now filled with lines and scars. My nails are always kept short, so I don't spend a lot of time with manicures. Sometimes they ache, but they continue to be my link to the world, whether I am playing the piano, writing letters to friends, working on classwork or writing a story. You know, my father always told me I was never going to be allowed to own a power saw. He made his entire body shudder at the idea that I might hurt my hands. He loved listening to me play the piano and the thought that I couldn't do that any longer scared him. My fingers aren't quite as beautiful or as limber as they were when I was seventeen, but they have their own strength.
I am thankful for all the hands that have been part of my life.