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“…the small, fine details of the world around them…” Linda Hogan

June 7, 2016

A mother was stroking her youngest daughter and told her family, “ She is just like S—. The down on her skin is the same and so is the length of her muscles. When I press my fingers into her skin it bounces back exactly the same way.” Hands observe these nuances, these fine details, taking in all this information from the realm of touch. It is a way of knowing very different from the world of sight and sound.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA baby cries as it is bathed by new parents yet is suddenly quiet as grandma takes her turn at the task. Those hundreds of hours so long ago are imbedded in her touch. The baby feels that confidence and relaxes, knowing when sight and sound are still developing what that kind of touch means. That eloquence, willful and reassuring, communicates love and confidence. Perhaps it is this eloquence that makes hands so hard to paint and draw – they know so much but it is so difficult to show that knowledge visually.

The French “tree whisperers” walk the Alps knocking on trees. They feel and listen for some important cue, something that their hands and ears can tell them about when this tree should be harvested and what sort of instrument it wants to be.

imgresThe luthier knocks on the wood for the soundboard and caresses it over and over as he sands, shapes and polishes. His hands impart a dream for the instrument, how it should sound and what kind of playing will suit it best. His hands take the logs from around the world melding them together into a whole. Like a mother his hands tell him the history of the wood from the spring-back buoyancy as he presses his fingers into it and from the feel of the grain. His hands will determine how loud and soft the guitar can play. His hands will help to determine how the instrument will respond to a player’s touch. Sometimes his hands will create an instrument whose sound is a perfect complement for a specific player.

The guitarist caresses the new instrument in her hands and begins to play, not knowing what sounds will come out. Hearing the result, her hands change the way they touch the instrument, finding a specific voice. Over time, as she coaxes the best sounds from it, her playing is changed by the guitar,. Over time, the voice of the guitar is changed by her touch. Following her inclinations, the vibration patterns of the top develop affinities that reflect her needs. These small, fine details make and remake the world a tiny bit.

The new Sultan had a challenge that he issued to his courtiers while Nasrudin was listening, “I challenge any of you to offend me in a way that your explanation will be a thousand times worse than the original offense.”

The next day, Nasrudin came to the palace, ran up to the Sultan and kissed him right on the lips.

“What on earth are you doing!” the Sultan said, wiping his lips vigorously.

“Excuse me,” said Nasrudin, “I got you confused with your wife.”

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