opposite, coordinate (living hagiography 1.19)

Hands and rosary, winter 2011. Picture by Seung I Sunim.


“Your hands look like mama’s.”
My paternal aunt.

What is not my own. What is opposable, like thumbs. What is coordinate, like a person’s two hands. The claims of the flesh. What impulse fired to bring nerve, sinew, tissue and skin to cooperate and work? Whose impulse? These hands, mine, also hers: The veins, like the delta of a river, fanning and gathering, crossing and parting, under the thin skin that rises up to the knuckles. The fingers long and slender in ratio to the palm. When I wore rings, they struggled over the joints before coming to rest, oddly slack, on the fragile bone dowel. Just like hers. Grandma sewed buttons for eyes on teddy bears (work for the hospital Auxiliary), watered cucumbers and tomatoes and then, after harvesting them, cut them up for a sandwich on bread out of her breadmaker. Methodist, she fingered the pages of a New International Translation each morning at the kitchen table. I use the King James, when I am not rolling the beads of a rosary or tracing the top-to-bottom, right-to-left columns of Chinese sutras. I keep her Jerusalem Cross behind the Buddha and her hands knotted over my life, a net, a stirrup, a grip between what I do and what I have inherited.

Hands and rosary, winter 2011. Picture by Seung I Sunim.


5 comments on “opposite, coordinate (living hagiography 1.19)

  1. What an utterly beautiful post. Words and images both.

  2. […] our own flesh and feeling (rather than focusing on an external projection onto offerings, say), is something I can relate to. I’ve held 49-day ceremonies for my grandparents and memorials for our ancestors. I also […]

  3. […] my twenties. My eyesight, after years of 20/20 or better, worsens noticeably each six months. My hands, once merely thin, now seem gaunt and have their first age-spots. Thanks to the Buddhist tonsure, I […]

  4. Pete Smith says:

    I second Rabbi Rachel’s comments–what beautiful words and images! I am so glad to have found your wonderful writings and photos again after a break of some years.

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