Tuesday, April 19, 2011


When I was little, I was fascinated by my mother’s hands. They were long and slender, well groomed with brilliant nail polish—although she did go through a rather unfortunate period of gluing on false nails (and losing them in the shag carpet…)—but what I really loved were the tendons. The skin on the back of her hands is thin and you can see the tendons and veins moving underneath, weaving over one another. It was like peering inside of her body whenever she worked. I used to like to push them around a bit, watch what shifted with a morbid curiosity….She didn’t like her hands; they were working class, strong from years of shampoos and pincurls, cleaning and painting. As she grew older, they became gnarled with arthritis. Her entire life is there, in her hands.

My father’s hands were square, with short fingers and closely trimmed nails. Capable working class hands as well—carpenter’s hands, scarred with little dings from work, sunburned and callused. He held a cigarette between his second and third finger, drove with one hand on the steering wheel low down, other arm out the window, held small animals firmly but gently as he introduced new members of the household to one another. The held the world safely when I was little and piloted us home at night on dark country roads.

I have my father’s hands—strong and square, often dirty, callused and cracked, nothing long or elegant here. I notice this most often on long drives, when my hands hold the steering wheel in the same way, low down, one arm out the window. When I was a baker, I thought that maybe, the tendons would become more prominent, but that only happens on hot days in summer. There is no watching my inner workings. But, as I grow older, and begin to draw more, I see the connections to her hands, long and slender, in my work.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I’ve been having issues with seed starting this year. The first round of seedlings, the tomatoes, were weak and slow growing. I think it was the potting soil, so, when I started the next round, which is the summer leafy crops, I thought “I need to enhance that soil” and tossed in a few handfuls of Biofish fertilizer into the mix. I labeled the six-packs, planted the seeds, watered it all, trudged to school with the tray, and placed it under the grow light on the far side of the room. After a little while, I noticed a slight smell, but I opened the window and moved on with life. Then students started wandering in for class.
“Man, it smells bad in here!”
“What’s that?”
“It stinks!”
“Why does it smell like fish?”
“What died in here?”
We had just finished a novel, so it was time to change seats, which is always traumatic. The girls who landed over near the seed tray revolted.
“I can’t sit here! I need to move over near the window (and my best friend in class),” one announced.
“I’m moving, too,” anther proclaimed and the entire group proceeded to sit one side of the room. It felt like we were all about to slide out the windows but we were able, finally, to move on with learning.
The next class was no more tolerant. One girl, given to High Drama anyways, wrapped her scarf around her mouth (it was a blessing in disguise, that biofish…) and sprayed cheap, ninth grade perfume around her chair. The room took on a whole new layer of scent as two girls broke out their bags of chili flavored crunchy bits to munch on while reading. A few boys fresh from PE just completed the aroma. By the time I propped open the door for the lunch crowd, it was ripe in the room.
“What is that smell?” the first arrival demanded. “Tell me it is not JUST ninth grade.”
Next time, I thought, I’m getting some new soil…