Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Old Hands

“Why does she have a grandmother’s hands?” a friend’s young daughter asked of me years ago, hurtful in the way young children are.  Sun damage I could have said; my having grown up in high desert of New Mexico, holding the reins of palomino horses on rocky June trails; catching minnows in mountain streams.  My not painting my nails, maybe she meant—because they chip (except in Italy when I drank frothy steamed milk several times a day in earthy cappucino) and break while planting blue lobelia, chopping onions and garlic for guacamole, playing Chopin nocturnes badly, stumbling on the notes.  Once playing jacks, gathering agates, figuring algebra on a chalkboard.  Washing dishes at dusk, feeling the grace of hand-held smooth-lipped bowls, making them clean.  My never being able to get enough lotion to soak in, scented with lavender or almond, cherry blossom from the south of France or my favorite Bert’s Bees milk and honey.

But I love this hand I photographed in a garden nearby, weathered and full of life.  I should be grateful to have hands as worn as this, a pilgrim’s hands, prayerful hands, practical hands, unpampered hands that gather marjoram and sage and put out water for the birds, that write on paper and computer keys always wherever in the world I am and that way talk to friends and gather stories and history and lives and work through thoughts and scoop up happiness with insatiable greed.

“What do you do with this hand?” a massage therapist asked me in December, surprised that it was so tired and tight.  I was surprised in turn, thinking “well, live.”  What don’t I do with it?  I am a writer, I told her.  It seemed so obvious.  My hand is what I am.

So in the end I couldn’t ask anything better than to have the hands of a grandmother, of my own grandmother and grandfather too, the hands that made Orange Pekoe tea and worked the leather of saddles, the hands that held me, showed me love.  The hands of strangers that stroke saffron on a forehead, that carve santos, that stitch up wounds, that offer shadowplay in firelight, read Braille, string pearls, polish a skate blade, plug a dike.  The hands in which a tarnished coin lies, reading heads or tails, telling my own or someone else’s fortune, showing the way.

image:  Christie B. Cochrell, Hand


  1. this is a tour de force.
    the simple subject of hands.
    i was transported to my own grandmother's voice...
    her clipped new england answer when i complained i didn't like the way my hands looked.
    " you have servicable hands. be happy that you have them at all."
    your beautiful little treatise to hands is more like a painting.
    but then it's your calling to paint with words.
    yes christie. my dear friend.
    you are a writer.

  2. I love your grandmother's comment—so true and so practical!

    Thank you, as always, for being you.