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Aging Hands

Posted Oct 06 2009 10:01pm

HAIKU CONTEST WINNER:Thank you everyone who voted in yesterday's “make up” poll for a year's subscription to Typepad blog service. We have a winner: the haiku beginning with the line, "Memory bottle. More to come at a later date.

My mother had beautiful hands and it was, when I was a child, a great bother to her that I chewed my fingernails. Manicure kits frequently showed up among my birthday and Christmas gifts from Mom. I suppose she thought they would induce me to let my nails grow.

It's not that I didn't want to, but I wasn't even aware of when I chewed on them. They were just always bitten down. That stopped on its own soon after I reached adulthood, but it didn't give me beautiful hands. Short, stubby fingers are my lot in life.

What it did give me, however, is a lifelong interest in people's hands. I'm much more likely to remember someone's hands than the color of their eyes. There are so many different parts to them; they can move so many different ways; do so many different kinds of things.

I like sculptures and drawings and photographs of hands, any hands, all kinds of hands. Some people think this wall sculpture is weird and odd, but it's been hanging in my bathroom wherever I have lived for more than 35 years because it pleases me. These days I see it as art, which it always was, but it has been used too for its intended purpose – to hold toothbrushes, soap and a wash cloth or two.


Perhaps the most famous hands are those of God and Adam that Michaelangelo painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling:


God's hand looks fairly young for being as old as he is.

Another well-known set of hands are those of M.C. Escher – one hand in the process of drawing the other drawing the other and so on in a circle.


This hand was sculpted by Fernando Botera, the artist best known for his rounded, oversize people. (from Wikimedia Commons ).


In recent years, I've been looking at old hands. They are generally thought to be unattractive, but that is a matter of perspective. Baby hands are cute and chubby, curious for how amazing it is that in something so tiny all the parts are there.

Adult hands come in many sizes and styles, mostly smooth and unlined and, unless extraordinarily beautiful, more utilitarian than interesting although these days they are likely to be adorned with tattoos or decorated with glittery nails so it's hard to notice the hands themselves.

But old hands, when you get past the cultural idea that wrinkles are unattractive, are the most interesting hands of all. This old woman has hands beautiful enough in their age to be set off to good effect with a glittering diamond. (From )

Old Handsring

Here are a pair of old man's hands, well-used and showing off their age. You can coo over a baby's hands, but these show their living and the work they have done. (From Pawel Maciejewski at Flickr)

Old man hands

And here are the hands of a 100-year-old woman, almost skeletal, but with veins still pumping life into them. How strong they look still, moreso than my own. (From director/2008 at Flickr)


When searching Google Images for old or aging hands, you get a lot of photos of lotions that promise to fade age spots, also known as liver spots although they having nothing to do with one's liver. The spots are generally thought to be ugly, but I don't think so. I've stared at this photograph for a long, long time. (From deanspic at Flickr)


When I was young and hated my freckles, I consoled myself with the thought that when I got old, they would hide age spots. Wrong! It's easy to tell the difference as you can see in my right hand.


Most of my life, although I didn't like my pudgy, stubby fingers, my hands were smooth and unwrinkled. Then, sometime in the past five or ten years, they wrinkled overnight – or so it seemed. I didn't see it happening. But nowadays, I think all old hands are interesting. Even my own.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Judy Vaughn: I Kill the Cats

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