I have no idea what 33 is supposed to look like, but people often seem surprised when they learn that’s my age. I keep expecting to wake up one day, shuffle to the bathroom, and hear the mirror announce I visually just skipped my 30s and went straight to 60. A friend once told me people can lie about the number of years they’ve lived, but their hands always tell the truth. Ever since then, I’ve taken a special interest in my hands, looking for signs of betrayal.
You can learn a lot from people’s hands: the texture, the wrinkles, the wear and tear, cuts and scars, or lack thereof, the shape and state of the fingernails, how the digits are adorned, especially one famous finger. Hands are silent storytellers.
During yesterday’s careful inspection, I stared in amazement at hands that weren’t mine. I was sitting with Curly, so naturally my fingertips were caked in smooth dirt from his daily scratch session. Three months of working with animals and the land had sun-kissed my hands and shaded my nails this weird grayish-brown. Or maybe that was just the opaque reflection of the thin layer of crap that always seems to be underneath, no matter how short I keep them. My index fingers were covered with rough, bottomless cracks, indents only dirt can reach, resulting in permanent dinginess, no matter how many times I wash them. The scar on the back of my left hand where Peanut accidentally bit me as I broke up a harness fight seemed to pulse in the sun. I turned my hand over and rubbed my thumb over another puffy scar on my ring finger where I sliced it open, a battle wound acquired deep in the forests of Finland while trying to keep bitches in heat from killing each other as we tried to turn three sleds around on a narrow trail after realizing the soft, deep snow wouldn’t hold us or the dogs any longer (I still don’t know what actually happened, I just know I was relieved the blood was squirting from me and not one of the dogs).
So many stories.
I clenched my hands tightly. They were sore, they were dirty, but they felt strong. I opened them, fingers wide. These were not my hands. But I knew these hands. These were my dad’s hands. I immediately messaged him when I got back to the house.
Thanks, Dad. Good to be here.
And it’s not just my hands. My entire body has changed. I have what I can only imagine tennis elbow is, though it’s definitely NOT from playing tennis, my joints are forever sore, my muscles need constant stretching, my body is littered with scars, bruises, bites and unknown markings. But I feel good. I am stronger. I look stronger, pumped full of fresh air and happiness.
But it’s June now, and all the appropriately aged people of the world are taking their own gap years from life; it was next to impossible to find volunteer work in my limited options of countries outside of the Schengen Area but still close to Europe, as I all of a sudden became too cheap to by a plane ticket over $100, knowing I have a gig in Ireland in July. Unemployment will do that to you.
So, these farmer hands are taking a break.
We (me and the hands) are headed to Scotland, where, between short stays in Edinburgh and Glasgow, I plan to road trip through the Highlands, hike a couple mountains, explore a few isles, camp under the stars (or more likely, rain clouds) on the side of single track roads, and drink all the whiskey. Like, all of it.
Takk, Norge, for giving my hands so many more stories to silently hold.