An Ode to Hands

There are 27 bones, 29 joints and at least 123 named ligaments in the human hand.

If you didn’t just look at your hands after reading that sentence, then you’re multitasking too much. Slow down. Give those amazing things a break. They deserve it.

Hands have been on my mind a lot recently. Mostly, because I destroy mine and I am so constantly trying to stop. My hands have always been a victim of my anxiety. I’m a nail biter, a hand chewer. My mom calls me a self-mutilator. Yes, I am trying to stop. Please, no preaching. I know how bad it is.

And the hand doesn’t deserve what I do to it. The hand is all-knowing. The color of your nails and the small “moons” on your nails can indicate the quality of your oxygen level of your bloodstream and blood circulation.

Hands are incredible. Structurally, fingernails are actually modified hairs!

I started making a list of all of the things we can do with our hands (get your minds out of the gutter) but it’s pretty long.  So I’ll break it up some for you.

It takes as many as six months for fingernails to grow from root to tip.

And hands are more than just practical and diverse. They’re symbolic. They represent giving and taking and love and hatred and so much more. We can hold our hands in prayer, we can hold our hands in protest, we can hold our hands in surrender or in anger.

Nazis held their hands in salute. While innocent victims held their hands as white flags, as please don’t, as I didn’t do anything wrong.

In yoga, which bleeds into life, we can hold our hands in mudras.


I’ve heard that what sets humans apart is that we have opposable thumbs–but, did you know that koalas do too?


I first learned the following fact at Renee and Don’s wedding. The vein on your ring finger is called Venna Amoris. It leads directly to the human heart and is known as the vein of love. This is why we wearing wedding rings on our ring fingers.

With hands, we can rub shoulders or slap a cheek, we can spread our fingers wide in downward facing dog, we can hold our head in our hands or hold our hands above our heads and celebrate. We feed ourselves, we feed others, we wave, we say goodbye. We draw our hands to our mouths in laughter and in tears. We can hold someone else’s hand. We can grip it and squeeze it in a pattern of three that means “I” “love” “you.”


Our fingers are even more sensitive than our eyes. Our fingertips have a large number of receptors responsible for sending messages to the brain.

Hands can namaste–which means “The light in me sees the light in you,” or they can pay for a beer. We can cook a meal or bake brownies. We can “take this man to have and to hold” or cradle a newborn niecephew. We can incessantly rub Aubrey’s pregnant belly too high up on her torso. We can crochet a scarf or eat Honey Bunches of Oats.


You cannot get a tan on the undersides of your fingers or on your palms.

But you can open a window, drive a stick shift, apply essential oils, hold the door for someone, apply deodorant–for someone else if you want to, put in eye contacts, turn on a lamp, turn off a lamp, shoot a gun, pick up an injured baby bird, select a blade of grass to make a horn noise between your thumb pads, cheers with a beer glass, pet a Joe or a Piper, scare away a Kramer, turn on the heat without realizing how lucky you are to have heat. You can tap out a rhythm, snap for a poet, place your hands on your hips that say, “Look at me. I’m here.”

IMG_5189 2

No two human beings in the world have similar fingerprints. Fingerprints are a completely unique DNA imprint that is different in every single human being.

With our hands we fix our hair, we write, we type, we clap, we (some of us) play instruments, we (some of us) give the middle finger, we clean, we plant seeds, we finger paint, we google pictures of koalas, we text, we drink wine. We can rub a hand along dried lava or get a manicure and feel special and then watch those special hands on your own steering wheel.


Julius Caesar ordered the thumbs of his prisoners cut off as punishment.

We can light a candle with the flick of a thumb, slide glasses up our noses with a pointer, offend someone with the middle finger, signal someone with the ring finger, or look fancy with an extended pinky. We can communicate with sign language, twist open a domestic beer, shuffle a deck of cards.

Unfortunately, in the time it took me to write this, I bit off all of my fingernails.

You can put your hands in as a group and feel connected and part of a group. You can high five. Or say “FLY GIRLS!” on three. You can take a picture and capture a memory. You take notes or hold open a great book. You can have your hands featured on the front of the Towson University Towerlight. You can hold up something you’re proud of like a certificate or a banner or a piece of art.


The average hand length for adult women is 6.7 inches. The average length for men is 7.4 inches

We can hold our wedding invitations to our mouths and hope we don’t get poisoned like Susan on Seinfeld. We can play chess if we know how, or even if we don’t. We can point at that crazy looking bird over there. We can salute–if that is your thing. We can cheer for the Orioles. We can say hold out just two fingers and say “Peace be with you.”

I love hands. I love chubby hands, baby hands, elderly hands that tell decades-long stories. I love wrinkly hands, hands with age spots, hands that show wear and tear, mechanic’s hands, gardener’s hands, tough hands, thick hands, hairy hands, bald hands, sticky fat hands, piano hands, Caitlin’s giant hands and Sierra and Shar’s tiny little hands. I love my husband’s hands and the other ones I know so well. Mom’s delicate yet strong hands. And how she uses them with her kids and she will tell you that being an Occupational Therapist is all about hands–she teaches people who don’t know how, to use their hands for food, for life. I love my dad’s hands. Dad’s hands that can comfort but also farm. And how he holds two fingers at his upper lip when he’s driving because he’s craving a cigarette but resisting because we’re there then how he uses his hands to house three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a row with barbecue chips on the side. I’ve said before that I miss Gram’s hands and Grandpop’s hands. And I do. Because their hands were symbols of who they were, who they are still, in my memories.

Love your hands. Appreciate your hands. See all that they do for you and then let them do for others too. Whatever you do with your hands, may that action, more than anything, spread love. Next week…feet!


3 thoughts on “An Ode to Hands

  1. “Man, through the use of his hands, as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health.” This famous quote from Mary Reilly a famous Occupational Therapist, is one of my favorite quotes ever. She first said it in 1961, and may not have considered making it gender-neutral at that time.
    With our students recently, we helped them to make healthy scrubs (brown sugar and coconut oil) as part of the healthy living unit. We gave them all hand massages if they couldn’t do it themselves, which many can’t. And the following week….yes we did their feet. I thought them how to use the sock slider, too. Looking forward to the next blog!
    Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s