When was the last time you viewed your hands, really looked to see the signs of your life?
I’m struck by my pinkies. The smallest of my fingers—the last in line for a handshake.
“Pinky swear, I won’t tell.” I can still feel the secrecy of adventure, the worry of revealing, and the sealing of the pact, with the curl of the little finger around that of my sister and of my best friend.
My pinky, like my baby toe—the end one, has a form of its own. As if it knew its importance and designated honor, as a holder of silences. A slight curve at the tip, an apostrophe of expectation.
A pinky promise speaks to the future. I imagine myself in years to come with a stiff pinky, curling with the soft tissues of my grandkids’ pinkies as we share ideas of what- ifs, and the intentional commitment to carry out a dream.
Dreams are made of swirls of the imagination. They are the sisters to prayer. I own a prayer wheel. My grandkids scribble fears, wishes, hopes on scraps of paper, an artistic rendition of their heart, dropped into the wheel, spun like pinkies curled together.
My thumb is less spectacular, but just as important. At least twice as wide as my pinky, it holds remembered consolation from bedtime fears. Most likely my thumb caused my inevitable need for braces. But now, my thumb is a holder of a pen with my forefinger. They are buddies that share the honor of writing—my move to authorship. Taking dreams and wishes and creating stories.
I remember the horror of my mother when she discovered that I bit my nails. Her long fingers, made for the piano, held elegance. Her painted nails curved and sanded to perfection, never saw garden dirt, or the back end of a scrub brush. Her hands spoke of class, silky soft, warm, and graceful.
I loved to hold my mother’s hand. They never seemed to age. My own nails have never seen a manicure or polish. Not a rebuke of fashion but celebration of practicality. I keep my hands neat and tidy, not quite as tidy as my father’s. Due to his vigilant care, he could do surgery with his hands or with his toes.
The palms of my hands are lined like the feather tips of my eyes, the ripples of smiles along my lips. They are a mix of working hands and that of a soft professional. I’m both a thinker and a tinkerer.
I wonder what someone feels when they hold my hand. Do they think of my pinky swears, or the pointed finger of judgement? Do they know that my hands hold the softness of discovery, and strength of physical labor? Can they tell that my background is both heady and earthy?
My fingers extend out like a turkey, the thumb acts as the head, the pinky the tip of the feather spread. Elegance missed them. My hands reflect my stubbornness. They are playful, with tricks of old sayings. “Here is the steeple, where are all the people?”
The skin on my hands is freckled with spots of age. But I’ve been spared the rheumatism that haunted my Bubbie. Hers too were working hands. They lacked the elegance but showed her class. She could look you in the eye and acknowledge your existence.
I place my hands together, fingers held in prayer. The pressure of my palms warms the tips, keeps me centered. My life resides inside.
The Magic of Words
Thanks to www.Wordmith.org and A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg, I have received for the last twelve years in my in-box a “word” with pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and usage. I must confess that the words eek into my brain and sometimes into my stories. Here are two words that struck me as noteworthy:
MEANING: adjective, adveb.: 1. Without using boxing gloves 2. Rough; unstrained by rules or scruples
ETYMOLOGY: From bare, from Old English baer + knuckle, diminutive of Middle Low German knoke ( bone). Earliest documented use: 1883.
MEANING: noun: 1. A post with one or more signs pointing toward one or more places. 2. Something or someone serving as a guide.
ETYMOLOGY: From the resemblance of the sign to the fingers of a hand. Earliest documented use: 1738.
NOTES: A fingerpost is a post with long thin board pointing toward various locations. These boards may look like fingers on a hand, hence the name. Sometimes these boards terminate in a pointing finger. The Oxford English Dictionary lists another sense of the word fingerpost: a parson or a member of clergy. As the citation from the A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tounge, 1785 tells it:
“Finger post, a parson, so called, because like the finger post, he points out a way he probably will never go, i.e. the way to heaven.”
My Usage: Without the guidance of my peers, I faltered in my decision. They were my fingerposts now silent. I held my breath, faced my adversary, and blindly forged through the rule book. I threw caution to the wind, and with bareknuckle precision I signed the document, that sealed his fate to a life imprisoned with his own conscience.
Hidden from view
I feel your eyes upon me.
The stare of “I see you”
A mantra of recognition
Smell, touch, taste
Melded to fruition.
You exist even as you hide.
Over the years, I’ve distilled my giving down to two main causes: Health and education. Without either a person doesn’t thrive.
Like everyone else in the world, I’m focused on the spread of the coronavirus. Here, in Washington State, we are more affected than anywhere in the United States. My worries are for the vulnerable. I’m live within that category, at age 67. While I’m healthy, it is about how I can be a carrier of the virus and never know. I don’t want my husband who has cancer to be exposed. I have the luxury of being able to cancel my trip next month to a book publisher’s conference, and hunker down without repercussions.
Many people rely on their jobs to live, they can’t afford to stay home. I encourage everyone to support our local government in making sure that sick leave is supported, that those who need to see doctors and get tested, have access and finances to pay for it.
This is a time to share compassion and services with a balance of prudent self-care. The spread of goodwill can overcome the spread of the virus.
Writing and Reading World
I’ve discovered that stories speak even when I want silence. If I press, try to hard, the discovery of plot and motivation recede. Just this morning I discovered by writing this newsletter a clue to my characters. Last week an article about legislation in Maine concerning recycling, piqued my interest and fell into the plot. I’m moving backwards filling in gaps as my characters lay in wait for me to come to their terms.
My latest read is that of Helen Oyeyemi’s novel, Gingerbread. Oyeyemi creates a fantastical story wrapped around real issues. Inventive and engaging, I found myself caught between following her threads for a crumb of gingerbread and running. I was never sure if I should swallow the crumb. This is a book that needs complete focus even as you surrender to her descriptions.
Given recent news indicating the spread of the COVID-19 virus (novel coronavirus) to our region, Whatcom County asks that all small events be cancelled. Given the risks in travel to the esteemed category of elders (of which I am part of) and to those with underlying conditions, I made the decision to avoid airports and large groups.
The good news is that my talk at Village Books has been rescheduled to Sunday, June 14th at 4:00 PM.
I’ll keep you posted on a new date for the Chevalier’s event.
Silver linings do exist. You have time to order Founding Stones from your favorite bookstore or online. Founding Stones is in audiobook for those of you who commute. You can even order River of Angels and Color of Lies to complete the series.
When we meet at the book talk and signings—you’ll enjoy my insights even more!!!
Inspiring thoughts from others, that move me to action. Here are thoughts that caught my eye.
To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men – Ella Wheeler Wilcox, poet (5 Nov 1850-1919)
You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvent, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful -Marie Curie, scientist, Nobel laureate (7 Nov 1867-1934)