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Guest Column: My Hands


Graham Ranft

Graham Ranft

In this issue, an Australian musician reflects on his aging hands and how they remind him of the richness of life.

Graham Ranft began playing jazz double bass in his 20s. The Canberra resident later learned to play the flute and recorder. Starting in his late 50s, Ranft studied for two decades Shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute. Now at 70, he is taking lessons on the Nōhkan fue, a seven-holed flute, that is heard in Japanese Nōh plays.

My Hands

I have been looking at my hands recently. They are not my father’s, they are my mother’s hands.

I see the pigment blotches that come with age, the thinning, drying suntanned skin.

These hands that have built car engines, radios, played flutes and recorders, played double bass jazz, made love, changed nappies, bathed and tucked in babies, engaged in the 10,000 things of daily life.

They are wearing out. I feel the stiffening joints, and now the carpometacarpal joints of both thumbs signal this slow decline.

My hands remind me of the richness of life and the vast tapestry of activity that vanishes into the store of past memories and impressions.

I look forward to less doing and more being as I enter this third age.

The growing appreciation of the blessing of each and every day and the rightness of just being. And of the little things I once glossed over or didn’t notice: the dragon fly wing in its exquisite transparency, fragile yet strong.

The discarded bird feather.

Autumn leaves glowing in the sun.

Like those autumn leaves, I too, am impermanent.

Let my hands then inform me of what I must do with gladness and enthusiasm in the time that remains.