“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh
What do you see in your palm? What stories do your hands tell—about you, about your lineage, about your experiences?
In my own hands I find reminders of my parents, both of whom were writers and artisans and good cooks when they were not at their regular jobs. My dad was a wood carver, furniture and clock maker, and all-round handy guy; my mom was a knitter, seamstress, and creative crafts person.
Further back, I see the hands of my grandparents: my paternal grandfather was an amateur astronomer and photographer with a darkroom and a flair for tinting the many black and white photos he took, long before PhotoShop was even a dream; my paternal grandmother played and taught piano and was a dessert queen, with a specialty in baked Alaskas.
My maternal grandfather, who in his youth had a mule train guide company going down into the Grand Canyon, was also an amateur photographer, grew a lush vegetable and flower garden, and tinkered in his garage endlessly and inventively. My maternal grandmother hand-sewed the tiniest stitches imaginable, was a talented knitter-crafter, and cooked huge amounts for large family gatherings that went on for most of my childhood summers.
I got the fiber arts bug from those ancestors, plus the urge to write, cook, take photos, grow things, and make things. I have, in my lifetime, used my hands to do stone carving, chair caning, weaving, knitting, sewing, beading, embroidery, baby tending, housework, log splitting, water bucket carrying, gardening, canning, pickling, massage therapy, acupuncture, candle making, soap making, watercolor painting (kinda), and sketching (sorta). During the five years I worked at Gallaudet University in DC, the world’s only four-year university for hearing impaired people, I used my hands all day to communicate in American Sign Language.
So far I have not taken mules down into the Grand Canyon or gotten anywhere with the piano, but there’s still time. Sorta, kinda.
Our hands tell a lot about us. Depending, they can reveal age, occupation, introversion or extroversion, emotion, ease or restlessness, truth-telling or lying, and so much more. A second cousin of mine came to a family gathering and wasn’t sure who among the grown-up young women was my daughter the organic farmer until he saw her strong, rough hands stained green from picking basil. Studies have shown that hand gestures communicate a great deal to the observer, for example: no gestures = possible indifference to the audience; hands hidden = possibly untrustworthy; hands open and palms at a 45-degree angle = you are open and honest; hands open with the palms down = you are certain about your topic; palms facing each other with fingers together = you have expertise in the field you’re discussing; hands grasped in front of you or touching your face, hair or neck = you are nervous or tentative.
In my acupuncture practice I see a good number of people having trouble with their hands because of osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis, overuse, repetitive motion, peripheral neuropathy, or injury. People come for acupuncture with symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger thumb or finger, de Quervain’s tendonitis (base of thumb), ganglion cysts, Raynaud’s syndrome (cold hands, or white, red, or blue fingers), Dupuytren’s syndrome (nodules and pits usually in palm), elbow tendonitis that radiates down to the wrist and hand, and wrist sprain or fracture from falls. Did you know that wrists are the most commonly fractured bones in the body for people under the age of 75?
When I fell on stairs in 2009 and fractured my right wrist badly, requiring surgery and a plate and screws, I could not believe how hampered my life was, and for such a long time. I quickly learned to do a lot with my left hand that I never thought possible, being a strongly right-handed person. Even after I had the plate and screws removed, lingering nervy pain dogged me and got me down, and thank goodness for acupuncture, both what I was able to do on myself and what I received from Bellingham acupuncturist colleagues Jill Likkel and Paula Brown. Also very helpful was massage work from talented LMPs Rhys Webb, Cheryl Roberts, and Deirdre Morgan. Acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, moxibustion, applications of moist heat, massage therapy, and stretching-strengthening exercises all eventually restored my hand. Thank you, Jill, Paula, Rhys, Cheryl, and Deirdre!
Daily activities are so affected by hand/wrist pain or stiffness—we need our hands! The simplest tasks of life become challenges when a hand hurts: opening jars, wringing out a washcloth, shaking hands, communicating ideas with gestures, washing our hair, picking up a bag, caressing a loved one … and on and on. We don’t recognize how much our hands get us through until something goes wrong with one or both. Fortunately, limb pain and stiffness often respond very well to acupuncture; it’s typically very successful for all of the above-mentioned conditions.
What’s written in your hands? Who do you channel through your hands, from your parents to your grandparents to the larger family, and further back in time? What do your hands say about you? How are your hands revealing what’s inside?And what are your hands telling you?