Quotes and Passages on Hands (Helen Keller and Willa Cather Excerpts) (July 2021)

Susan’s Thursday Note July 29, 2021
Quotes and Passages on Hands (Helen Keller and Willa Cather Excerpts)

Good morning!  Coffee.  Stillness.  Words that seem to fit perfectly together.  Early my angel of dawn peers into my window.  Calmly arriving after a night of absolute stillness within the trees.  Carefully holding a little cicada  she listened to singing his heart out during the night.  Summer morning.  Dawn.  Beautiful gift.  Hands.  I spoke on how I will miss the hands of my father when speaking at his memorial service.  Hands waving to me.  Hands throwing up my children into the air.  Hands on the trumpet.  Hands praying.  Storng farmer hands holding mine.  Waving when I arrive.  Waving when I leave.  Always his strong gentle hands raised high.  This week I reread a passage in Willa Cather’s book, Neighbor Rosisky, of a girl named Polly and her thoughts as she sits alone observing the hand she is holding of an elderly man she loves.  Along with this passage I have found other excerpts and quotes on the hands.  Helen Keller first feeling out the word love in her hand.  Thoughts by Michelangelo on the hands.  And a beautiful poem by an Australian poet on what her hands can do.  My angel of dawn shows me her soft hands as she again encourages me to enter this day.  This beautiful day called life.

Helen Keller’s memory of finding the meaning of love while being taught on her hands.   “I remember the morning that I first asked the meaning of the word “love.” Miss Sullivan put her arm gently round me and spelled into my hand, “I love Helen.” “What is love?” I asked. “Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out,” she replied. “You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day.  You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything.  Without love you would not be happy or want to play.” The beautiful truth burst upon my mind–I felt that these were invisible lines stretched between my spirit and the spirits of others.  Once I knew the depth where no hope was and darkness lay on the face of all things.  Then love came and set my soul free.  Once I fretted and beat myself against the wall that shut me in.  My life was without a past or future, and death a consummation devoutly to be wished.  But a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hands that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped up with the rapture of living. I do not know the meaning of the darkness, but I have learned the overcoming of it.” 

“A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.”  Louis Nizer

“In joined hands there is still some token of hope, in the clinched fist none.”  Victor Hugo

“Behold the hands, how they promise, conjure, appeal, menace, pray, supplicate, refuse, beckon, interrogate, admire, confess, cringe, instruct, command, mock and what not besides, with a variation and multiplication of variation which makes the tongue envious.”  Michel de Montaigne

“A bit of fragrance clings to the hand of the giver.”  Chinese Proverb

Excerpt from Neighbor Rosisky by Willa Cather.  Thoughts while observing the hands of a sick elderly man.  “But Polly sat still, thinking hard. She had a sudden feeling that nobody in the world, not her mother, not Rudolph, or anyone, really loved her as much as old Rosicky did.  It perplexed her.  She sat frowning and trying to puzzle it out.  It was as if he had a special gift for loving people, something that was like an ear for music or an eye for colour.  It was quiet, unobtrusive; it was merely there.  You saw it in his eyes, – perhaps that was why they were merry.  You felt it in his hands, too.  After he dropped off to sleep, she sat holding his warm, broad, flexible brown hand.  She had never seen another in the least like it.  She wondered if it wasn’t a kind of gypsy hand, it was so alive and quick and light in its communications,- very strange in a farmer.  Nearly all the farmers she knew had huge lumps of fists, like mauls, or they were knotty and bony and uncomfortable-looking, with stiff fingers.  But Rosicky’s was like-silver, flexible, muscular, about the colour of a pale cigar, with deep, deep creases across the palm. It wasn’t nervous, it wasn’t a stupid lump; it was a warm brown human hand, with some cleverness in it, a great deal of generosity, and something else which Polly could only all “gypsy-life,” something nimble and lively and sure, in the way that animals are.  Polly remembered that hour long afterwards; it had been like an awakening to her.  It seemed to her that she had never learned so much about life from anything as from old Rosicky’s hand.  It brought her to herself; it communicated some direct and untranslatable message.”

“Who takes the child by the hand takes the mother by the heart.”  Danish Proverb

“The hand reaches and extends, receives and welcomes – and not just things: the hand extends itself, and receives its own welcome in the hands of others.  The hand holds.  The hand carries.  The hand designs and signs, presumably because man is a sign…the hand’s gestures run everywhere through language, in their most perfect purity precisely when man speaks by being silent…Every motion of the hand in everyone of its works carries itself through the element of thinking, every bearing of the hand bears itself in that element.  Martin Heidegger  

If we have been pleased with life, we should not be displeased with death, since it comes from the hand of the same master.”  Michelangelo

“Hold a true friend with both hands”  Tanzanian Proverb

“A friend is one to whom one can pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keeping what is worth keeping, and, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”  Arab Proverb

Henri Nouwen on unclenching fists in prayer

When you want to pray, then, the first question is: How do I open my closed hands?…the angel spoke to Zechariah, Mary, the shepherds, and the women at the tomb: “Don’t be afraid.”  Don’t be afraid of the One who wants to enter your most intimate space and invite you to let go of what you are clinging to so anxiously. Don’t be afraid to show the clammy coin which will buy so little anyway.  Don’t be afraid to offer your hate, bitterness, and disappointment to the One who is love and only love.  Even if you know you have little to show, don’t be afraid to let it be seen…Each time you let go and to surrender one of those many fears, your hand opens a little and your palms spread out in a gesture of receiving.  You must be patient…very patient until your hands are completely open.  It is a long spiritual journey of trust, for behind each fist another one is hiding, and sometimes the process seems endless.  Much has happened in your life to make all those fists, and at any hour of the day or night you might find yourself clenching your fists again out of fear.”

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 Nanh

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour.  Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute.  That’s relativity.”  Albert Einstein

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”  Martin Luther

My hand Can Hold by Modwena Sedgwick

My hand can’t hold the moonlight.
Can yours?

My hand can’t hold a sunbeam.
It’s gone
When I carry it indoors

My hand can’t hold the rushing wind
From the moors.

My hand can’t hold night silence
So still.
But my hand can hold yours.

So many scenes cross my mind of hands I love.  Scenes I will someday miss.  Pictures I already miss.  An elderly man whose hands I picture every time I call as I hear him accidentally hitting the wrong keys on the phone playing me a song.  These same old hands dropping the phone.  Little hands sticky with lollipops.  Hands asleep on the pillow.  My own hands clicking on the keyboard.  My dad’s hand waving to me across a field.  The same hands I picture folded as he prayed for me that morning.  His hands folded in the casket.  Still calm.  Still loving.  My mom’s hand holding onto her stolen coffee mug I now hold with mine.  Hands that seem to look more and more like hers as I age.  Hands of a newborn and hands of a 10-year old on my mantle molded in stone capturing an exact moment in time.  The hour of a little soul joining an older soul of his brother on this short musical score entitled life. 

Life.  Beautiful song.  Played out with our hands.  Tonight we will be handed a chisel.  A chisel in our minds.  Will we have moments today worthy of inscription in our stones?  Words capturing today.  The sand.  The winds.  Constantly moving.  Will we consciously stop a moment in our minds and notice the beauty.  The beauty of the hands we will see or picture today.  Thank you for letting me enter your world this morning.  Thank you for coming into our beautiful store and for your orders for your gifts, toys, cookies, books, and friendships.  I hope that at sometime in your life you find words within a book which change the course of your thoughts and life to remind you that life is a beautiful gift.   Susan

Latin for this week:
Cedo manum – Give me your hand.
Manus in Mano – Hand in hand.
manu ducere aliquem – to lead some one by the hand

Works Cited:
Cather, Willa.  Collected Stories.  New York: Vintage, 1992
Nouwen, Henri J.M.  With Open Hands.  Notre Dame.  Ave Marie Press.  1972.