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Tell tale nails

My fingernails (lovely tapered French manicured tips) are black around the edges and no matter of scrubbing seems to help. I was pulling weeds in the misty rain for two hours in the early morning. Two days ago my nails were stained blue due to blackberry picking and wine making. The day before, I banged one so hard on a horse bucket, it almost pulled off and my finger started bleeding underneath the nail. Cussed to high heaven. The horses barely blinked. Guess they are used to my temper.


When I went to have the nail repaired, my dear manicurist, Tracy, shook her head and said, “What you always do that nails so bad?’ (she is Vietnamese and struggles with English. Nevertheless, I ask her questions about her life and how she came to America and fell into the nail profession all the time. She has made an important appearance in my thesis novel due to these conversations.)


I shrugged and said, “Hobbies.”
At this, she lifted an eyebrow. I know she was thinking I should take up knitting. She’d be right if I really wanted to look polished all the time. Of course, another alternative is to simply stop trying to keep up with nail grooming and accept my inevitable farmer’s hands. I do trim my nails “active length” but nevertheless, every week I come into the shop looking like I tried to claw my way up a mountain. 


If I was practical I’d stop primping and having my nails done every week – at least in the summer when my activities revolve so heavily on outdoor work. But I can’t seem to make that jump into “au natural”. I think I have some latent concern that the next thing you know I’ll be forgoing makeup and stop shaving my legs. I’ll never “go country” or organic in that way, even if I end up a hermit in the woods. The fact is, I don’t care if no one but my Donkey sees me, I want to look nice. After all, I’m still me, just in another place doing new things.


We went tubing the other day, and I apologized to Mark that I was going without taking a shower first or putting on make-up. He rolled his eyes and said, “Are you kidding. It’s tubing. I’d think you were weirdo if you came looking any different than this. No one is going to see you anyway.”
He often says things like this, making fun of me because I’ll be out in a pasture shoveling dung with pretty jewelry on, but I always think, YOU see me, you big boob. That counts. I was relieved when Diane showed up with her hair all frizzy sticking up out of a headband. In Georgia, every day is a good hair day for lucky me. That counts for something when all the other feminine elements have passed the “mystic” phase and gone on to “mysteriously missing”.


I have considered taking a few more pottery classes to refine my basic skills. I sometimes imagine getting a wheel and perhaps building an outdoor brick firing kiln. We certainly have the space and I adore hand thrown pots and the remarkable possibilities of clay. But honestly, the thing about learning pottery that was difficult for me was taking off my nails. My fingertips felt raw and they hurt with the constant pressure of spinning clay against the bare fingertips. My acrylic nails are not just for looks, they are a strong protectant (and they are good for prying stickers off of things or opening flip top cans). Besides which, I just don’t feel pretty without nice hands. Pretty is as pretty feels. I’ll conveniently avoid the question, How pretty are nails when they are rimmed in black, stained blue, or they have been broken by feed bags, saddles and cages?
Pretty enough for me, apparently.


I am on my way to teach Kathy this morning. We haven’t had a lesson in three weeks due to my graduation. I’m looking forward to seeing her and catching up. I bought her a Boston shirt and a few new workbooks. She was invited to lecture in the jail last week, and I can’t wait to hear how that went. Seeing her progress, watching her life improve, always gives me a jolt of joy. I’ll run my grubby little fingers along the pages of a book and listen to her faltering recitation of the lines with true pleasure.


It will be a symbolic reminder of a simple truth – You can’t wait for someone else to get a job done if it is important to you. Sometimes it is best to just dive in, get your hands dirty, and do what has to be done.  That is how you make a difference in the world. For you and for others.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

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