An arm raised may be asking a question, may be calling a cab, may be the up arc before the downswing of a conductor’s baton or a police baton, before the launch of a ball or frisbee; it may be reaching for a particular book or medicine on the uppershelf. It may be a wave–the way we recognize each other at a distance. I may think it is you because they wave like you do. I may think you are my grandmother, friend, lover now gone either from sight or from the world. I may raise my arm the way my grandmother, friend or lover did–a gesture learned and passed along. A knowing something, a knowing body, a body of knowledge. Gestures.
- a movement of part of the body, especially a hand or the head, to express an idea or meaning, feelings or intentions, or
- an action performed for show in the knowledge that it will have no effect.
One evening about two decades ago, I watched two people in conversation at a party in a friend’s basement. One of them looked around him and, not seeing what he was looking for, bent his knee, lifting his foot off the floor, and pulled open the rather deep cuff of his jeans. He tapped his cigarette ash into the cuff, then put his foot back on the floor. People were dropping ash on the floor all around him. It was a gesture of caretaking so miniature and specific as to be only barely visible, but, as Virginia Woolf wrote in *The Waves*, “For such gestures one falls hopelessly in love for a lifetime.”
Not all gestures are lovable or lovely, nor are all gestures memorable. Some gestures are vague. Sometimes we misunderstand them. Sometimes we understand them too well. Send me your gestures large and small, in writing large or small, fragmentary or whole, poetic or prosaic, serious or absurd (or both). I may choreograph smaller sets, and let the larger gestures speak for themselves.
Featured Image Credit: Hand Movie, Yvonne Rainer, 1966