The Beauty of Hands

Yesterday I gave myself a manicure. Most of the time I take my hands for granted, forget they are the implements of my life, allowing me to create, survive, love, and often express without words my innermost feelings through touch. But yesterday, I really looked at those appendages at the ends of my arms. My digits are bent and twisted now, age has taken its way with them, but after some consideration, I decided they are more beautiful than ever.

When I was a little girl, my hands first grew out of proportion with the rest of me. There are photographs when I was twelve, wearing a navy suit and white gloves, the cotton kind with the seams held together on the outside with tiny stitches. My hands are so big in front of the navy suit my sister said I looked like Minnie Mouse. There was a period growing up when I used to bite my nails, keep them behind my back, or sit on them so no one would notice how big they were. But, as time often has it, I grew into my hands. Stopped biting my nails, learned how to groom them and keep them properly clean, then decided they were just right after all.

Once reaching maturity, I became proud of my hands—large for a woman, long fingers, veined, and very strong. Their look sang melodies of sensuality, capability, and finesse. Each night I followed my mother’s almost religious practice—before bed using hand cream.

Living in New York City, I learned never to go outside in the winter without leather gloves. I didn’t want my hands red and raw looking from the cold, no, I wanted them smooth, sensuous, soft—the hands of a well cared for woman. Those big hands could carry large rings, diamonds, gold, elegant sculptures in precious metals requiring a large stage to display their artistry.

My hands worked to create many things: contracts, jobs, sweaters and scarves, money, jewelry, sublime dinners, tiled floors, family security, flower gardens, gracious entertainment, and stubborn certainty. Over the years, my hands pinned diapers, patted dogs, slid across a lover’s silken skin, cut bait and reeled in fish. They wrote, or typed, to-do lists, television presentations, books, letters, deals, stories on airplanes, love notes, memos and menus.

The scars are many, like the time I sliced my hand while making lunch for my husband in the galley of our yacht. Not a smart thing in a storm. When I came on deck trailing blood, he almost fainted. Another scar resulted from leaving a knife, blade up, in a dish drainer, bad move I’ve never repeated. The other various nicks are so plentiful, I’ve forgotten how most were acquired.

The bump on the left hand index finger is from taking copious notes in college, then law school for two degrees. The bumps on the right hand index and second fingers come from use over thirty years, beginning in the days when my first computer used two big floppy disks, one for programs, the other for data and then on to the facility of the mouse.

To my initial horror, I watched the slow changes to my beautiful hands. First the bumps on knuckles started, next the fingers twisted and turned of some inner volition of their own over which I had no control. It was a slow decline, years in the making. Recently, I noticed one finger had decided to take its own path, heading west instead of remaining straight. The next neighboring digit then accommodated by snuggling up against the runaway.

Now I like the way they look in all their gnarled beauty, in fact, I find myself proud once again of my funky phalanges. Each bump, twist, turn, crook and lump is another chapter in the story of my life. Like the Andean tribe in South America who left their history written in quipu, or knotted strings, I think of my fingers the same way. I can look at them and read the memory of times, places, events of my life in every one. And who can deny the beauty in that?20150830_145104-1

Bad Saturday

It’s Saturday afternoon, as I begin, 3:48 in the afternoon. When I opened facebook it asked me what was on my mind. BIG mistake! Luckily, I am fortified by a XX Amber.
My plan was to leave California at 7 AM this morning, and head home to Mexico, miss the weekend beach traffic, the racetrack or any other events planned for noon on.
When I awoke, the clock said 6:48 AM. Maybe snooze until 7? I stretched out my arm and felt something odd that shouldn’t be there. Damn! One of the dogs had barfed on the bed. Not just once. Three times!
Now this is not just an ordinary bed. No, it’s the bed in the home carefully staged for sale. The home I spent the last five weeks working on. The bed with the fancy comforter and matching pillows and skirt, over which I had carefully put a sheet to keep clean. It’s summer, the dogs and I sleep with the fan on and window open; top of the quilt is fine for us.
Sigh. Nothing to do but deal with it. As I rolled over to get up, I was greeted by a floor filled with spots and mounds of poop. Either the same dog or another one had a bad case of the runs during the night. OMG! Next would be locust, I thought. I was almost right.
An hour later, the comforter and all sheets were in the dryer, the floor once again pristine. I packed the car, intending to leave when everything was dry enough to put back on the bed. Let me tell you a secret, comforters do not dry quickly. They ball up and hide the wet part inside so it never dries while the outside part of the coil looks perfect. You open it to spread on the bead, et voilá, the center part hasn’t even given a thought to drying.
It was 10:48 when I got on the road. I checked. Four hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic later, on a trip that usually takes an hour and forty-five minutes, I arrived home. When I opened the door, all was well, but I had forgotten something. When I left, I’d set off bug bombs all over the house.
Greeting me was my kitchen floor looking suspiciously like my late husband had thought it was a Caesar Salad and had his way with his beloved Moulin au Poivre. Wall-to-wall tiny black bugs—floors, counters, tables, tops of canisters, chairs—everywhere.
Okay, survived the poop and barf, bugs ain’t no big thing! Got out broom and dustpan and swept all the little buggers up. Didn’t want to put them in the house garbage so I went to dump them in the outside garbage. A five gallon empty paint pail was by the patio door. I keep it in case of fires, and took it out a few days ago when they were burning brush in the area. As I pushed it out of the way, I noticed something inside. Without my glasses it looked like a large dead leaf.
Well, no dead leaf is going to stay in my clean pail. When I reached in to toss it out, the leaf began to move in disturbing non-leaf ways. Shrieking at the top of my lungs I leapt back before it could use my arm as a ladder to freedom. A freaking mouse!
Now I’m not a little woman, and I don’t mind living alone. I’ve traveled the world for business on my own and I’ve faced armed soldiers in various countries and managed to keep my cool. But I am scared shitless of mice, and snakes. Spiders, I can deal with.
Using all the willpower I could gather, I calmed down. Alice, I said, you have alternatives. You’ve sold the shotgun so that particular one is out. You could knock the pail over and let the mouse run free. I shook my head. No, that wouldn’t work. Lorenzo, the little Yorkie-poo, has too much ratter in him. He’s already terrified friend Patria doing victory laps around the living room with a dead mouse hanging out of his mouth. She had to call me in Corsica to get instructions on how to de-mouse him with rubber gloves and barbeque tongs. I was in no mood to try and prise a dead and bloody mouse away from him, at least not today.
The next alternative was to put the pail outside the patio and hope for the best. Like the mouse would maybe get out and run the other way. As soon as I went to pick up the pail by the handle, the mouse went ballistic, flinging itself around the pail and trying to leap up and over the sides. In my direction.
Another shriek from me and a violent urge to use the facilities had me fleeing. But I have fortitude, I went back into the fray. After a little experimentation, if slowly nudged, the pail moved without making the mouse frantic. I managed to get it onto the sidewalk. That was it. Mousie was on his own.
I went back inside, finished cleaning the house, put the groceries away and made a package of garbage to take outside. As soon as I opened the patio door, there was the pail. The mouse was sitting hunched against the side looking up at me. I could almost read his mouse-thoughts, daring me to move the pail again. No kidding, I was scared. I went back to the kitchen with the garbage, and left mousie to his pail.
So, for all intents and purposes, a mouse has now laid siege to my house and I am trapped. In case you don’t see me around for a few days, you might come and take the pail away, that is, if you’re braver than I. Or, you could just look in the pail and see if the mouse got bored and left on its own. In that case, I’m certainly available for lunch as long as XX Amber is on the menu.