The Mast-Head: The Spirit Is Willing

The near-hoarding quality of those of us with, perhaps, the ability to fix and repair material things but not the time

Sorry to say, I did not get the name of the reader who stopped by The Star last week with a small skein of darning thread. 

I had written a lament about the absence of suitable yarn at the Sag Harbor Variety Store with which I expected to mend a hole in a wool mitten. Time was, I might drive over with an old sweater looking for material to close up a hole eaten by a moth and be able to buy a small amount in a near-perfect match wrapped on a card. I was, it seems, one of the few still looking for yarn; the store no longer keeps a supply.

By coincidence or luck, the Coats & Clark’s silvery gray darning cotton the reader brought by is close in color, if not texture, and I mean to try it.

I was surprised by a second response to my column, this one an email from Peter Fitzgerald, who suggested I stop by Black Sheep Knit Works in East Hampton Village. A kindred soul, Mr. Fitzgerald went on to say, “As someone who has a shed full of things I fully intend to repair (they accumulate faster than I fix them somehow), I commend your good intentions.”

And that brings me back to something I have written about before: the near-hoarding quality of those of us with, perhaps, the ability to fix and repair material things but not the time. Darning a glove or sock is one thing, but letting a leaky cold-water faucet under the sink go on for six months before being shut off at the valve crosses some sort of line.

Last summer, I started work on putting a favorite surfboard back into shape after a friend had driven it into the sand and snapped off the nose almost a year earlier. The board is still waiting for a final coat of resin and sanding. In my basement and workshop you might find as many as 10 antique chairs awaiting attention. There is even an old hammock from Mexico hanging near a broken canoe paddle, which I have long intended to tend to.

There is joy in making broken things work again, which is why we hold on to them, I suppose. And yet from their dark, cobwebbed places in the corner of a basement or the back of a shed they call to us, mocking us for not letting go. If the worst thing anyone can say about Mr. Fitzgerald and me is that we keep too many things for too long in the hope that we can resurrect them, I guess that is not all bad. I am sure he, like me, believes that he will get around to them eventually.