The other day at Artists and Craftsman, we noticed the cashier’s ever-ready note pad —his hand — and were reminded of the many ways we’ve used our hands. We mentioned this to Sinnae Choi, Improvised Life’s brilliant aide-de-camp, and she wrote some seriously powerful words about just what hands can do, and be.(Sinnae’s hand* is at top, and we’ve followed her piece with some others we’ve admired, including the cashier’s)

These broad, flat yet mutable appendages are good for a thousand and one things, as we’ve dedicated countless posts on cooking, building, sewing, fixing and re-making with our own hands. They’re miraculously well-angled and well-jointed for a number of tasks requiring fine motor skills, moves I didn’t even know I was capable of until I started taking specialized metals and glass classes.

To me, these hands of mine, short and not very nimble since childhood, delicate and brittle, are yet somehow numinous, “beyond” any other object or tool that I can conceive.

It has nothing to do with their grace; they have none. It doesn’t have much to do with my love of making by hand, or with the haptic thrill I receive from every goop and grit I plunge them int0; I can receive the same thrill from leaping whole-body out of an airplane or mud-wrestling in the dirt.

It is that they are, as they are, and that every day they transform into something different, but every day are always thundering channels in and out of me.

Today I thought of a friend in Texas who I had fallen out of touch with: a witch, an unconventional beauty, a strong and sometimes angry woman. She had always had the most curious and unexplained tattoos. Mimicking her wholly (in reverence), yet sure that for us both these little black dots meant quite different things, I marked each space just under my fingernails with a Sharpie (not needle and ink), not just as a reminder of my old friend, but as a reminder that these things (my fingers and my hands) can shoot rays of power, can pull into themselves individualized sensations indistinguishable by sight, are miraculous little sausages and things to be loved.

I am not much of a spiritual person but today I felt the strange grace of these fingers, denigrated and ignored for so many youthful years for being ugly and short, then twisted and shaken, tortured relentlessly in pursuit of craft until carpal tunnel set in, and now finally allowed to rest enough—to breathe in and out those things which we do not otherwise notice.

This is a note to myself, today: to remember not the eggs or the bank visit but the fingers themselves.

hand note pad

Keith Richards' hands/Francesco Xarrozzini
Keith Richards’ hands/Francesco Xarrozzini

Isabel Rower's hand art
Isabel Rower’s hand/ Maria Robledo

Tessa Traeger's photos of hands in the Vivarais region of France
Bread baker’s hand: Tessa Traeger

Heart + hope reminder/Sally Schneider
Heart + hope reminder/Sally Schneider

Isabel Rower's dancing girl hand/ Maria Robledo
Isabel Rower’s dancing girl hand/ Maria Robledo

Buddha's hand/Sally Schneider
Buddha’s hand with Ellen Silverman photo/Sally Schneider


*note from Sinnae: I am wearing very fake holiday plastic press-on drugstore nails


If you’ve found illumination, joy, or inspiration in this post, please consider supporting Improvised Life. It only takes a minute to make a secure donation that helps pay our many costs. A little goes a long way towards helping Improvised Life continue to live ad-free in the world.

Support Improvised Life ♥

One thought on “Hand as Note Pad, Art Material, Tool, “Thundering Channel”

  1. Oh my, this is wonderful. “Miraculous little sausages and things to be loved” is my favorite thing read all week 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *