A Woman’s Hands

DSC09490These hands aren’t girlish pink and plump, but the palms are smooth and soft. Not ancient hands, but aging hands. No arthritic swellings or broken joints. No aches when typing, chopping, or loading firewood. They are my able and willing friends, hands to thank and trust.

As babes, these hands plucked warm brown eggs from Grandma’s hen house and carried the basket safely to the kitchen. They pulled the warm soft udders of Grandpa’s sway-backed cow, stroking and coaxing the teats the way he taught.DSC02931

These hands planted my first garden with Dad when I was twelve. They weeded radishes and green beans in a tiny backyard plot.

These hands belonged to the teenage girl who cooked Dad’s last meal. After he died, they held my dog Amigo tight.

These hands sought young love in hopeless lonely places. Then they found the one I’d looked for all along and convinced him to take a chance on love. He gave my left hand a wedding ring.

img021These hands reached for wet babies as they left my womb. They held them to my breast, near the nourishing heart.

These are the hands that rocked my babies, tossed them in the air, pushed them on a swing, and held them when they wept. They knit baby sweaters and sewed Halloween costumes. They grew bushels of organic vegetables, made thousands of meals, and filled the cellar with jars of summer fruit.

One hand waved goodbye when our sons left home to meet the world while the other hand held on to my husband Vic.

IM003957These hands soothed my dying lover when he was afraid. They massaged the swelling, counted out the pills, held his hand, wrote medical details, and made hospital beds. They traced his lips and held him close, hoping to remember just the way he felt. They washed his body and shrouded him in white sheets. Once again, they waved goodbye.

It’s strange to see the left hand ringless now. It wore a knobby silver band for 42 years. It was a sign of love, of belonging with someone in this life. That ring is on my altar now, a reminder that my lover and husband left this earth but left his love behind.DSC02992

These hands type out words for stories and click the send button. They point the camera, open the refrigerator, change hearing aide batteries, and cook a simple meal. They type a book, edit it a hundred times, and send it to the world with love.Willow3

These hands decorate the house with Solstice lights and candles to honor those both here and gone. These grieving hands held tiny Willow and counted on her love. Five years later, they press her furry sweetness to my heart.

DSC_0031These hands make fists when life feels hard. Then they rest in meditation posture and press palms together in gratitude and praise.

These hands hold and hug and sometimes let go.


What do your hands say about you and your life? What do your hands give and do? I hope you’ll enjoy another perspective about hands in My Wedding Ring, My Lucky Charm and A Circle of Love.

  1. Whether in your writing or in your work with the bereaved, those hands of yours also reach out to support, to encourage, to welcome, to reassure and to comfort those who are walking behind you and beside you, dear Elaine ~ and for that we are very grateful. ♥

    • Thank you, Marty. You know how to keep a woman working hard with positive reinforcement! As always, I’m grateful for all you do and grateful for your support.

  2. Another beautiful piece Elaine.Tears!. Meaningful for me with how I have used my hands!. Many hugs to you!

    • Lori, it’s sweet to get a message from you. I remember those healing hands of yours. I’m sure they are always doing their healing work.

  3. Elaine, what a beautiful piece! It reminds me to be thankful for my hands, still free of arthritis and pain, able to write my thoughts easily with the touch-typing skills I taught myself the summer after fourth grade, to paint what is in my heart on canvas or paper, and even to learn to play the piano at seventy. I’m in my third year of lessons and not giving up until I have to.

    My wedding ring is no longer on my finger, either, but Adrian’s presence will be here always.

    • Lynne, when I saw you had sent a comment, I immediately thought of the creative skills of your hands. And music added to writing and painting. Yes, Adrian and Vic, still residing in our hearts.

  4. Beautiful Elaine! An autobiography through your hands. Thank you, with love ….

  5. Stunning Elaine! My favorite piece so far. It was pure poetry from beginning to end.

  6. Thank you for sharing your ‘hands of time’ Elaine. Truly a profound post. Our hands take on the tasks of life. For some they are the eyes too. I love this post! <3


  7. With such grace,words put perfectly together to outline the palmistry of life written before you.an inspiration of such beauty in the palm of your hand.I feel blessed to know you along this path.Thank you Elaine.

    • Thank you, Brenda. I didn’t think of palmistry, perhaps because I don’t know a thing about it, but I see how this can be looked at as a reading of the palms/hands. Thank you for that perspective, and thank you for sending a comment. I’m grateful for your support.

  8. From the sublime to the mundane you paint your life ‘seen’ through the work and play of your hands. We can convey so much emotion and feeling through our hands without saying a word. I’m sure the comfort and power of your touch has been a balm for many. Thank you for this beautiful piece. Gilly

    • Thank you, Gilly. I enjoyed honoring my hard working hands and looking for and taking photos for this piece. I posted it on FB and a FB friend forwarded it to his wife, a palm reader. Who knew? She said, “Give this hand a project and it will be completed. Love of the environment. Next to the life line there is an Angel, Spirit Guide or an unconscious part of you that will help you and guide you for your entire life. Creative talent, strength all mixed together in a delicate balance with sensitivity.” So that’s what happens when a woman “shows her hand.” Nice affirmations and all true. I haven’t had my palm read since the sixties, but it was a fun surprise.
      I hope you’re thriving in December. I hope to get snowed in and get some writing done.

  9. These hands were made for lovin’
    And that’s just what they’ll do.

    One of the these days these hands
    Will walk all over you.

    Your hands walked all over me today through the power of language and memory.

    Thank you, Elaine.

    • So much better than boots, Shirley. I often imagine myself being held in the Great Mother’s Hands (especially when I’m wakeful at night and can’t relax) or remember my grandmother teaching me to embroider or the other brushing my hair from my face. I couldn’t get enough of touching Vic as he was dying. My hands wanted to remember his body just as my heart wanted to remember his love.

  10. I just read this for the first time. What a beautiful piece. Such a wonderful way to express love, loss and life. Thank you for writing this. Your writing always touches me.

    • Thank you so much, Marla. I liked looking at hands so much that I wrote a piece called “My Lover’s Hands” about a year later. I’ve had a taste of what you write and I’m eager to read more.

  11. I love how you make use of material published before I “knew” you. Your hands are lovely. I have a memoir chapter (actually just a sub-chapter) on my grandma’s hands. She said, “I always wanted to have beautiful hands.” when she thought she didn’t. I can’t imagine a more useful pair of hands than hers, always doing for the needy – and for our family. Thanks for this wonderful reflection.

    • Sounds like your grandma had the best kind of hands, Marian. I imagine you do, too. My favorite photo in this blog is holding Willow at 8 weeks old, because that’s the first time I felt joy after Vic’s death. It works for me to post these old blogs again. There were many posts I liked in the first years of blogging that didn’t get many readers because I was a just starting, so it’s nice to give those pieces a second chance.

  12. Thank you for this Elaine, quite beautiful. I often look at my hands, the right one quite scarred from a car accidents and the fingers a bit crooked but all very functional after a long recovery period. I love how you write about how much our hands have done. I also remember the warm touch of a hand or a hand shake or those hands clinging to cliffs.
    I’m attracted to hands, one of the first things I notice on other people. I’m envious of women who treat their hands with care and who wear gardening gloves and for doing the dishes and so on. It shows – they look so lovely and delicate and painted nails often. A work of art.

    • Thank you for your reflections, Susan. I’m glad your hands (and mine) are functional. That’s the most important thing. Scars are part of our history. My hands often have dirt under fingernails. The garden gloves are usually thrown on the ground near where I’m working, depending on the job. Dish washing is good for cleaning my garden stained hands as well as cleaning dishes, so no rubber gloves for me unless I’m doing something truly nasty. When I remember, I put cream on my hands at night because they feel dry, but the main thing for me is that they don’t hurt or ache and they can still do everything I need them to do without discomfort.

  13. What a beautiful piece Elaine Mansfield to Hands, and honoring them is like honoring life. These parts of the human body ARE DELICATE AND STRONG at the same time serve us so much all our life. They are so meaningful, and still sometimes we forget that every action we take involves our hands.

    • Thank you, Ermira. There is so much more I could have added about hands, but I looked through old photos and went from there. I’m grateful my hands serve me well and don’t ache or stiffen so far. I hope yours do the same for you.

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