Home page

Saturday, November 2, 2013

By hand. By John von Daler

                  If you look at them now, they have small wrinkles around the edges like the folds at the waist of a sitting woman by Vermeer. The skin that they call white, is made of hardly any color, just layer upon layer of tissue reminiscent of the strata hidden in an iceberg in Greenland, but these are almost crimson: all of the layers taken together give a kind of soft, pale red glow. Maybe these are the fires of life that soon will soften, become embers, lose heat, crumble and finally turn white.
                The lines in the palms, tributaries three from a single source, spread and disappear over the curved edge as you would have thought our once flat world could toss off its waterways at its edge, without a fuss, just gone.
                The fingers, small, once agile, now hunting and pecking like so many skinny fowl, fold stiffly, become taut when stretched.
                The nails, for a half-century kept too, too short, scissored away almost daily, reasonably and cleanly so as not to get in the way, now grow unchecked, sloppily, first one, then the other. They no longer serve the violin on the wall and what resistance they encounter comes from the keyboard and its keys now spelling the letters that stand for them on this page: HANDS.
                Once they were the center of your pre-Copernican universe: here are your reasons and your conflicts. You play and therefore you are. Those hands holding a violin already at the age of four meant no baseball, no football, no tennis just music and practice. They became agile as a short-stop bounding through a double play, but this was no sport. You became like Jascha #Heifetz when he was told that his manner of playing reminded the speaker of a deadly heavyweight who entered the ring swiftly, left his robe in one corner, walked to the middle and knocked his opponent out with one blow:
                "Do these look like the hands of a prizefighter?" asked Heifetz before he left to join his audience and knock them out.
                Years later a friend of Heifetz recounted how he loved sports and played them just as much as he ever had practiced on the violin. You saw a whole childhood from a new angle and grieved the loss of the little league. But you had your hands still intact. And you had played too. All right, not like Heifetz, but somewhere between him and Ben Webster, a fiddler in a pub and a blues junky, your own niche, thanks to the hands.
                Now your grandchildren point at the violin on the wall and shout bow!, bow!, v'lin!, v'lin! and you pull it down and play a jig with aching fingers on strings like razorblades, your nails in the way, your technique bombed back to the stone age.
                And then that little voice you know from Harper Lee and Faulkner and Dylan Thomas, the voice of the irreversible now, a small, dry, eggshell voice, whispers in your ear, through the brain all crammed with losses and gains, pains and pleasures, its life quite fully lived already: Hands! Hands! Keep using the hands!



No comments:

Post a Comment

Most Popular Blogs

Total Pageviews

Search This Blog


Follow by Email

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)