Catch His Hand [on DR Thursday]

Many years ago, somewhere in the middle of the 1990’s, I painted a portrait of my dad. It is monochromatic and a fairly quick study. In the painting, he is either emerging or returning to the corn. Or both. I can’t remember why I painted him in the corn except that he was born in Iowa and wished his entire adult life to return to the small town where he grew up. Perhaps this is a painting about yearning. Perhaps it is a painting about returning home.

It occurred to me, when I found it while re-stacking paintings after the great studio flood, that I painted this when he was roughly the age I am now. For a fleeting moment I wanted to paint a monochrome self-portrait simply so I might place it across the room. We’d have a staring contest that reached beyond both of our lives.

I chucked the idea for many reasons but mostly because I had no idea what “field” I might emerge from or into? My symbolic return home would be…what? I am not connected to a single place, a tiny town in Iowa or, like Tom Mck, a ranch in California. I have been a wanderer.

I’ve always loved hands. They are, in many ways, more expressive than faces. They are not as guarded and rarely put on airs. My dad was a working man and has working man hands. He was proud of the work he did. It was hard and broke his body but he loved it. It was out of doors under the open sky. He started his career as a teacher and, although he never confessed as much, I think he hated teaching. The classroom was suffocating. He needed to get his hands in the dirt, feel the sun on his face. Even after he retired, as he aged, he sat on the porch in the mornings, he worked his garden or clipped his grass or cleaned his gutters; anything to be outside.

I had a dream many years ago that has stayed with me. My dad and I were free-falling through time. As we fell, he reached out his hand. I stretched out my arm, tried to grasp his hand, but in falling, we were just out of reach. In the dream I stared intently at his hand as I tried to extend my arm, tried to grasp his hand. I knew, if I was successful, if we could catch his hand, it might not stop our fall, but we, neither of us, would fall alone.

read Kerri’s blog post about COLUMBUS HANDS

Look To The Hand [on KS Friday]

This is the year of the hand. Not ox or rat or snake or dragon. Hand. Not merely as a symbol but as an overriding metaphor for our latest circle around the sun. And, like all good metaphors, “hand” is complex and signals more than one level of meaning.

You’d be amazed what you cannot do when both your hands are immobilized, when both your wrists are broken, when your thumbs are bound in plaster. So, the first level of meaning in our metaphor of “hand” points to all the things we take for granted. Try and wash your hair without your wrists. Try and cut a piece of bread without the use of your hands. Try to open a door without your thumbs. The failure of proper appreciation for simple function. There’s nothing like a good hard tumble, complete with casts, to revivify genuine indebtedness to the temple of the hand.

I’ve read that an opposable thumb is a physical adaptation that helped humans survive – and thrive – in our many habitats. In addition to all the things we take for granted (and now fully appreciate), our “hand” metaphor-of-the-year also reaches into the wonders of adaptation. I watched with utter amazement, two weeks after her fall and with no time off extended to her, my wife played the piano. Standing across the room you’d never know that she was in casts. This woman, who could not button a shirt, somehow, managed to play. To make music. To open hearts. Standing behind her, I was slack-jawed at the contortions required, the adaptations necessary, to reach the keys. Spread a thick layer of pandemic on top of lost jobs and injury, and the year of the hand is a miracle of rolling adaptation. An affirmation of the possible.

And, while considering miracles, I would be remiss if I did not mention the mittens. Gloves are not made for hands-in-casts. To keep hands warm while walking-through-winter we tried a succession of thick socks, borrowed mittens, and other inventions that included sacks, wraps and duct tape (I’ll leave it up to your imagination to fill in the gory details) – none of which did the simple job of keeping fingers warm. We visited multiple sporting good and camping supply stores and found possible solutions but they were not in the budget. Not even close. The year of the hand is, above all, a year of tenacity. One step at a time. Keep walking. Keep looking. Keep trying. And then, one day, an after Christmas sale brought to us, as Kerri likes to call them, her miracle mittens. They are easy to slide onto injured hands and over splints. On sale they were within our reach. “My hands are warm,” Kerri purrs as we crunch through the snow. “It’s a miracle.”

The year of the hand. Filled with appreciation for all that what was once taken for granted. Adaptation in circumstances that we might once have called impossible. Tenacity. There’s always a way. And, if we forget that we can do almost anything regardless of the fury that surrounds us – and we sometimes forget – all we need do is take a breath and look at our hands.

read Kerri’s blog post about MIRACLE MITTENS

Keep Playing [on Two Artists Tuesday]

tendonitis copy

As I reported several weeks ago, if you where standing on the far side of the piano, you’d never know Kerri was playing with casts on both of her wrists. You’d never know that she was playing with two broken wrists, her right thumb completely out of the line-up. Nine fingers doing the job of ten.

As a composer, singer-songwriter, a person whose entire career, her livelihood, has been about playing the piano, she was at the keyboard four days after her fall. She had to know if she could play. I couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears. In my best mother hen voice, I suggested, “Maybe you should wait a bit.”

“I have to know,” she said with THAT tone in her voice.

When I first met her, I took note that she stands when she plays the piano. She is not a bench sitter. Rather, she is a full-body player. She is a full body composer. Sometimes the piano literally hops with the force of her playing. She is little but grows exponentially in energy and presence when she steps up to the keys. The first time she played for me I had to step back from the power that came through her.

Now, several weeks into her mending time, the casts are off and the splints are on. I tell her that they make her look all Mad Max. Michael Jackson’s glove is bush-league compared to her performer-fashion-statement: double black splints.  She looks like a pugilist getting into the ring with her piano. The disparity between her bruiser-piano-vogue and the beautiful music she creates makes my head swirl.

Of course, all of that piano punching has brought a new hurdle in the wrist recovery saga: tendonitis. She went on a Google frenzy when the hard nodules began forming in her palm. They hurt. “My palm is on fire!” she said, “What do you think they are?” Google inflamed her already wild imagination with horror diagnoses and none of the scenarios were good. In fact, they were downright dire.

Doctors were called. Photos of palms sent. A scary foray into the medical facility mid-pandemic was arranged. She emerged from the facility, pulled off her protective mask and climbed into the truck. “Well?” I prompted.

“I didn’t touch anything,” she announced.

“I’m asking about your hands,” I huffed. “What did they say about the nodules growing in your hands?”

“My tendons don’t like that I’m playing with casts,” she said. “Probably tendonitis.”

“That’s good news!” I said and she hit me with THAT look. “Okay, so. Well. Not great news. What are you supposed to do?”

“Keep playing,” she said, looking out the front window. “They gave me some exercises. Advil. But, I keep playing. What else can I do?” she asked, a question not to me.

“Good then. You’ll keep playing.” My mother hen suggestion went unvoiced: maybe some rest? I didn’t want to be hit with THAT look two times in a row. Instead, knowing full well that she is not a bench sitter, knowing that she is a full-body artist and that, for her, to play is to heal, I said, “Okay. Let’s do it. Let’s keep playing.”


read Kerri’s blog post about THE SAGA CONTINUED



their palettes website box copy