They're like gang-signs from the Buddha: mudras that convey the divine powers or emphasize the nature of a particular diety. They are an external expression of 'inner resolve' that give meaning to the sculpted images, communicating more powerfully than spoken language.
The name for this blog was taken from a letter written to us by one of our elderly Japanese friends, who always painstakingly translated everything into unwittingly poetic (and mysterious) English. I forget now exactly what he wrote, but it was something about how he was looking forward to our return to Kyoto, and would wait for us, finger-fold.
What it means -- prayer? twiddling of thumbs? -- I'm not sure, but am entirely captivated by the idea of it.
Also, I love to draw hands. I especially love the y-shaped crease the pinky makes when it's curled against the palm. I can't explain this, the satisfaction I get from rendering it, but I never seem to get tired of hands. These folds are so delicate and so expressive. Mudras for the lay-person.
I felt the baby for the first time the other night: lying in bed, reading, and suddenly a pushing from within. It felt like a hand or a foot, sweeping out from right to left. And again. And then some less distinct and fluttery motions. What are you doing in there, little one?
I read that babies will start to suck their thumbs around this time -- 16 weeks -- and it made me think of Italo Calvino's short story in Cosmicomics, 'The Spiral.' In it, he tells a story from the point of view of a mollusk, that is to say, not much of a view at all. Nevertheless, the mollusk is capable of a range of feelings, yearning, loves, with which it interprets its environment. (It eventually creates a shell for itself to express its love as beauty for another...)
I remember being struck by the vividness of that sightless world, and thought, Perhaps this is what it is like to become aware of yourself in the womb: warmth, movement, vibration, and, what's this? a hand to suck on.
Fingers, folded, sucked. Hands are important from the first.