I’ve always been fascinated by hands; they reveal so much about an individual’s character. In fact, I often make a point of tightly clasping the hands of those I first meet, discreetly glancing down to check out the unique pattern of wrinkles, scars, callouses or arthritic bends etched in their skin. These imperfections offer an amazing view into the kind of life that person has lived.
This fascination with hands goes back many years, to when I was a patient at The Menninger Clinic. As part of my therapy, I was required to take sculpture classes. I soon found that the tactile sensation of working with clay, rolling and flattening it on a table and then shaping it into another form was very therapeutic.
I also learned that my favorite inspirational subject, by far, was hands. In fact, for many years, my favorite piece of art from that period–a clenched fist sculpted out of clay–followed me wherever I went. The fist became, for me, a symbol of my own determination to overcome life’s challenges and a reminder of how far I’d come in my own journey.
It also made me think about all the helping hands of people who were important to me over the years my husband Larry, my daughter Laura, my mother, my grandmother Nennie and my grandfather PaPa. Bringing that first clay fist to life was almost a religious experience for me; it felt as if the hand of God was reaching out to me as I worked.
I recently had the opportunity to take up sculpting again. Once again, I turned to my favorite muse as inspiration. I named my latest sculpture, “Determination,” because it reminds me of the strength of character we build throughout our lives, through grit and persistence, that enables us to overcome our personal challenges.
As I sculpted this hand, which I later had cast in bronze, some of my favorite songs about hands came to mind, and I found myself humming happily as I worked. One of my favorites is a 70’s tune by a group called Ocean entitled, “Put Your Hand in the Hand.” Watch the song, by Ocean, below.
While this song’s message telling us to join hands with others (in this case, Jesus) still resonates with me today, I find the following lines especially relevant in our 21st Century world: Look at yourself and you can look at others differently.
To me, these words speak volumes about how important self-reflection is in building empathy for others, a message we can all take to heart during these divisive times.
Think about all the hands you’ve encountered over the course of your life, and how they’ve helped pull you along in your own life’s journey.
© Tyra Manning 2017