3SH • 19 May 2008

I have been reordered down to the digits, and now the process that happened years ago to my toes is working in to my fingers.

Have you seen the hands of the women who have spent some time in third? Once-tapered fingers turn flat from making birds and sages.

It may not be conventionally pretty, but it is good, the odd strength in the hands. As I have been taught, you work from the base in this practice, contrary to Iyengar. So when you turn everything upside-down, how else will you protect the weird architecture of the shoulder girdle if not by rooting through every last fiber of the fingers?

Third series hands are not beautiful, but we seldom realize it when caught by their charms. In them are too sharply blended the delicate features of our ancestors with the florid outgrowths of ashtanga… Ok that’s enough shadow-mining. (What in god’s name is the first line of Gone With the Wind still doing in my subconscious? Ugh.)

Anyway, my mother’s mother had a sister, I think it was, who was a hand-model with straight tapered fingers and long pink nails. The “tragedy” of my line, which I look down on mirthfully every practice, is the slightly bent middle finger that my grandmother passed to my mother and my mother to me. No modeling contracts for these hands, at least not in a pre-photoshop world. That said, my mother’s hands with their crooked finger are perfect, smooth, and really beautiful, like everyone’s mother’s hands: I love the fineness of her fingertips the never-changing sharp curve of the nails, and the way they smell of middlebrow baby-powdery perfume.

I’m carrying the so-called flaw but both the tapering and the softness are gone. After 12 years of piano playing that taught me to cup my hands as if over a tennis ball—a habitus I transferred directly into my typing style when I had a laptop surgically attached to the ends of my fingers circa 1995—it took me another two to learn to flatten the palms into the floor in a way that would protect the shoulders in a handstand. (Two years ago, I had to re-train the first knuckle on the index of the left hand, because it did not know how to root and this was creating a kind of RSI in the shoulder. I talked to a Feldenkrais practitioner who made me realize the hands are extremely subtle but also re-trainable in ways that can save the rest of the body–otherwise the early impossibility of that process would have convinced me I couldn't change.)

The other thing about these hands that is not mine is everything on them. This morning three rings: a wedding band from out of the Stillwater Platinum Mine, the complicated diamond I’ve been wearing lately for Nietzsche and which comes to me by way of a suicide—one I need to remember—two generations back, and a silver and turquoise flower my great-grandmother picked up in one of her trips to Mexico and wore on her pre-mutation hands. I have small hands and that ring fits my right pinky, but I always wonder if hers were even more small and she wore it on the ring finger. I never saw her hands though, except insofar as I see them when I look at my own.