IN BY THE SKIN, OUT BY THE HANDS

I struggled to move on from my dad’s death. Partly because his passing was so unexpected. But mostly because I discovered his body in my garden…where he was still working weeds out of beddings when God collected him for eternity…

A friend suggested I try mosaicing. I would never have considered trying my hand at little-tile-glueing because I’ve never been into crafts. I’ll be super honest, I felt like rolling my eyes a bit. But I was cooked; floating along the current of each day as it passed, and I had no mechanism for rebelling against her offer to help me get started.

I liked mosaicing as soon as I glued the second itty bitty square next to the first one. I can’t remember what I used as frame, but sticking the tiles onto a surface in a systematic, rhythmic repetition forced my heart into an old familiar beat. Something about who I was before my dad’s death was still alive.

When we were finished, I turned to my friend and said: I loved that. She smiled and said: In by the skin, out by the hands

See, my friend had had her share of Great Loss. She knows something about loving across the giant, mountainous frontier between this life and the next. And as it turns out, she also knows about healing.

In by the skin, out by the hands. She explained that life’s devastation will get at you through all of your skin. But it can’t find it’s way out in quite the same way. What you need to do, she said, was to take your hands and make them work in creation. Build something, draw something, carve something, glue something. Create something with your hands, mean it, and the devastation will leave through your fingers and into your creation.

When my mom died, not quite a year after my dad’s death, systems shut down. I’d lost my favorite, favorite person. For about three years I ran on auto-pilot, and the auto-pilot settings were firmly turned to eating and watching movies. Then something wonderful happened: I desperately needed new curtains and I couldn’t afford it. What I could afford, was some fabric…

With the energy of an injured sloth I pulled my mom’s sewing machine from its perch in the highest, hidiest corner of the furthest closet in my house. I watched enough YouTube videos to bring the old sewing jalopy back to life and I allowed my mind to visit far away times when my mom was huddled over in front of the machine, pushing yards and yards of fabric through its hungry teeth.

The curtains were a disaster. Things were sewn into place that should really just be allowed to hang free. But they still hang in the spare bedroom. It’s Sachs haute couture.

But as the seams were stitched in place and the hems sprang up, I felt a little healing force its way into my veins. And when dresses and blouses were subsequently put together with awkward enthusiasm, I could feel the grief make way for something else.

The act of creating with your hands is an act of letting go of some of the rot. It moves into the object of your creation. And there it can no longer kill you.

It’s been a long ass week. I think I will create some chococino…

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