The Hands That Make a Home

In a city that I couldn’t call home, my hands were a resident all on their own. Hands that have made both friends and enemies with the liquid that protects them, the rubber that guards them and the 20 seconds that guides them. These hands of mine have become shy and introverted, quaking and unreliable in times when I’ve needed them most. To prepare a hearty meal, to work to pay my bills and to craft the art that swims marathons in my mind.

They have become stifled in creativity yet zealous in their new duties. No e-mail has went unread, no call has went unanswered. My hands stood like two vacant little armies, waiting for orders from their sergeant in charge. They were no longer the warm creators of my art but cool operators of my commands. They had become strangers of the world’s own making. Of my own making.

Though familiar with motions of mask-wearing, nose-blowing, hand-washing and computer- clicking, they had become strangers to the co-operative motions of the most precious task of all — home-making.

Home was a place that I had no business being at over the last few years and in its absence, I had— admittedly— neglected the hands of home that fed me, that warmed me and made me.

But now, I was ‘here’ and ‘here’ was where I could set those cold and tired little soldiers free to enjoy the home-grown and hand-cooked meals that filled the void of microwave dishes. To revel in the experience of my mother’s soft fresh, folded laundry. To feast on my no-longer-captive creativity and to allow my fingers to glide along the piano keys that stirs that forgotten feeling of ‘togetherness’. Most important of all was to realise that some of the most spectacular hands that make a home aren’t even hands at all — they are paws.

As my time on my little rural island draws to a close, there is just one thing that I will leave for the big city comfortably knowing and that is that my hands— alone—don’t make a home.

Author’s Note: This was a graded photo essay as part of my masters degree.

Characters: The Hidden Pleasures of a Coffee Shop

There’s something about the ambiance of a quaint, cosy coffee shop in the centre of a historical city- with bustle on the outside and soft buzzing on the inside. A place laced subtly in life’s simple pleasures, like a cup of coffee that warms your hands, mouth and soul; surrounded by rustic beams and voices as dimmed as the four little lights dotted about the panels above you. There’s an unspoken tranquility about it; an almost celestial one that slipped through my fingers as I switched from a coffee-drinker to a coffee-maker in the middle of a worldwide pandemic: a simple pleasure no longer.

How hard can this be? I thought, yet it was fleeting as I examined the loud, intimidating machine in front of me competing with raised voices around me.

The smell of fresh coffee grounds dominated with a lingering scent of disinfectant, my feelings of tranquility and warmth, replaced with stress and an icy coldness from 8 hour shifts in masks and gloves with no breaks, to implementing distances on people who were once never apart. An atmosphere which I once considered as my place of escapism- that now ironically- I wanted to escape.

“Would you like milk with your latte?” I asked the young girl at the counter, though she needn’t have responded with words for her look of bewilderment from her eyes alone communicated my error.

Though in the days of dark adversity, I somehow found warmth in those dimmed little lights just one last time. There is one of life’s simple pleasures that resided here that my eyes would skim over without a second glance but one that became so essential to soothing the sores of my anxiety-ridden mind that will never be taken for granted again: Characters.

The importance of characters in life I have -until now- so greatly undermined. Some have hurt my stomach from laughter, some have made my eyes sore from tears, yet without them, my workdays would be unbearable. From the woman who stumbled in at 11am asking if we sold alcohol, to the middle-age mothers, with masks below their nose, declaring with bangles jingling on their wrists that Covid is a hoax.

Or the businessmen who meet every Thursday morning, focused and unaware of the chaos that surrounds them.

Even the students who sit quietly for hours on end, so unaware of just how much their stillness is needed. Or Peter, the jovial but equally as humble old man who despite being a famous artist, chooses to sit alone with a tea and scone in this dainty little place. Their diversity as characters has never been so admired as it is by the waitress that serves them. They’re little pleasures hidden in plain sight.

As the jingle of the bell signals the comings and goings, I can’t help thinking that there’s something about the characters of a cold, busy coffee shop in the middle of a world-wide pandemic: They’re what keeps it warm.

Image source: “coffee steam 1” by waferboard is licensed under CC BY 2.0