Out of the Office: Hands on

A palm reader once told me I’d marry a dark-haired man, but wouldn’t lead a long life. Since then, I’ve decided I don’t believe in fortunes.

My palms don’t hold the knowledge of what’s to come in my life, head or heart lines but they hold the memories of plucked flowers and the sliding of the steering wheel on winding turns into the mountains.

My hands know each word I’ve typed and erased while writing this on my front porch, remembering drafts that no one will ever read, all while swatting the occasional mosquito from my face.

They hold the present too, can make decisions for me in the now.

As I hiked Lost Lake trail, my mind kept trying to look at the views of Resurrection Bay, but my hands kept leading me down to another blueberry bush. They embraced the methodical ‘pluck, pluck, pluck’ and couldn’t let my mind wander away without a few more berries in my nearly overflowing Folgers jar.

And when I remember that hike now, I don’t think of the clouds parting over the bay or the descent down into the valley that holds Lost Lake. Instead, I think of the way the blueberries felt rolling in my hands before I popped them into my mouth and how my fingers were stained a deep purple from their juice.

I ran into a black bear on the trail that day, the first I’ve ever seen. I was alone and as I turned the corner there it was. My hands started clapping as loudly as they could, and the bear scurried off, more afraid of me than I was of him. My hands remembered the lessons I’ve been taught about hiking alone, lessons that I know now have become instinct.

I visited my hometown recently and hopped into the passenger seat of my best friend’s car as I had so many times before. My hands went to the window, rolling it down, and then to the stereo, turning it up. They remembered my admiration of open windows and loud music on hot, humid summer nights.

She drove us straight to her new apartment where I ran my hands over every counter, touched every knob and surface, feelings I look back on now for context when she calls me and says, “I’m just at home on the couch.”

In our youth, she played the piano. I always admired the way her fingers fit so perfectly on the keys, like they were meant to be there, and I admired the way they understood where to go next, guiding her.

Our hands don’t show the future, they show the past, the now. They show who we are, not who we will be. My hands, with their bitten nails and fading scars, show signs of my anxiety, my energy and my inability to keep balanced (especially on a bike).

Her hands, with their long and seemingly fragile fingers, don’t travel across the keys anymore but they’ve retained the decisive movements, as if her daily life is being led by a melody.

Later in the trip, I found myself walking downtown with friends. One has the calloused hands of a plumber, the other has graceful hands that are learning to live a life at sea.

Each time I laughed at one of their jokes that afternoon, I found my hands reaching out to touch either their shoulders or arms, to create another memory of that moment. I wanted memories as real as the dirt under the plumber’s nails or the scallops held in the other’s palms, knowing that visits are short and while texting to keep in touch all you feel is your cellphone.

We found more friends later in the night, a newly engaged couple among them. I pulled her hands into mine, admiring the latest addition to her left.

She told me that as she zip-lined through the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, her hands turned white from gripping tightly to make sure her new ring didn’t fall. She was just getting used to the ring’s place on her hand, the same hand that had held her fiancee’s in the hallways of our high school and the same ring that had adorned his grandmother’s finger — a story her hands now tell.

The next day, I saw my cousin, nine months pregnant with her hands wrapped around her large belly, as she sat on the beach.

“I think he knows which hands are mine,” she said of her not-yet-born son. I placed mine where her’s were, feeling the hiccups and kicks that she pointed out to me, excited to see what his hands would do.

Back in Alaska, I was hiking again. At 4,000 feet altitude, the wind was blowing and I found my hands going numb as the temperatures dropped. I reached into my bag and pulled out my extra pair of socks, shoving each hand where my feet should go. I looked like a fool, but a slightly warmer one.

I embraced the warmth as we continued along the small ridges, at heights I had never reached. The shale beneath my feet melted down into the face of the mountain as I walked along trails that few people had traversed before.

I lost my balance, falling against a large boulder to my left just before the squealing wind I heard flying through the peaks found its way to my cheeks. I looked down and saw the same wind causing ripples across Cooper Lake. I took the socks off my hands and rubbed some warmth into them. I found my balance and pushed myself up, feeling the small rocks digging into my palms.

Screw the cold, I thought, I wanted to remember this.

Reach Clarion reporter Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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