I have very mixed feelings about my hands. If I were to look at them objectively, they are certainly not beautiful. In fact, judging by the poetry, paintings and literature of the past, my hands are a good indication that I come from good solid peasant stock. Much as I’d like to believe I was from a long line of needle-working ladies, spending their days in a turret room embroidering or sipping tea, I just know my ancestor was down in the dairy milking the cows or planting potatoes.
A lady’s hands look like this:
A peasant’s hands look like this:
To top it all off, I am a big lass, and you might think I could wear those gaudy rings but alas, I can NEVER get any in my size. If I had ever married, I’m sure I would have had a ring or two sized to fit and probably loved them. The thing is – I’m so used to using my hands for so much, that I can’t imagine how to do all the things I do with annoying metal bands around the fingers. I can’t even bear to have long fingernails and worry about breaking a painted nail. How can anyone type with any passion with nails like that?
And then, of course, there are the age spots. Mine seem to be coming in early. I have a strong memory of my beloved Mum’s hands – bent over with arthritis, spotted with many, many discolorations, but always busy and so constantly working on things she loved or things for people she loved. Playing her mandolin, cooking endless meals, sewing, knitting, reading, playing Scrabble. My own hands – sadly – are showing signs of going the same way. The joints are getting painful and swelling, the spots are getting darker, and this is on top of being large ‘capable’ hands anyway.
BUT – and here’s where I’m going with this. I LOVE all that my hands have enabled me to do. They’re not beautiful or decorated or photo worthy, but they have taken images in my head and made pictures with them: Books, diaries, blogs, oil and water paintings, illustrations, cartoons, memes. They are the primary way I express myself. They are how I have made my living, both as a graphic designer and now in my many and varied guises.
I rarely remember to use hand cream, I often forget my gloves, I try to hide them from photographs, but for all my meanness towards them, they have served me well.
So, this is a small but necessary tribute to the appendages at the ends of my arms, even now touch-typing the words of this blog. I hope they give a warm and firm handshake when I meet people, and I hope they continue to be a vehicle for all the ways I want to express myself.
God bless all the peasant women down my line, who pulled up potatoes, peeled vegetables, chopped wood, did laundry, mended clothes and endured chilblains. I would rather have my strong, capable, ugly hands than the weak slim white ones of a true lady.
On the strength of that, I might just go and give them a rest and a dab of cream.