Sunday Opinion: The Borrowers

In the course of one day, my pruners (labelled with my name) may move from my tool box to my desk, to the work table in the garage to the counter and on to my layout table in the office; I might find them several days later in my purse.  Or in a cardboard box out back.  How is it that this tool travels?  My Joyce Chen shears are small-they vanish from under my nose, and may appear a month later in my junk drawer at home. Later Buck might fish them out of my jeans back pocket. I have a floral supply bureau-it is home to corsage pins, floral tape, wired picks, stephanotis holders, bout tape, and fern pins.  Why do all of these things seem to leave home under their own steam, never to return?  Are they on vacation?  They will reappear at some later date-invariably down the street someplace. 

I have both of my Mom’s 1950’s blond mahogany dressers at the shop-I store my ribbons in it.  I store the bits and pieces I cannot throw away, the embroidery floss, my Mom’s embroidery needles still stored in their pierced paper card, a button box. A collection of rolls double faced satin ribbons-a treasure. I always have lime green on hand.  The red, the fig, the cream white, the purple-I like these too. Narrow velvet ribbons backed in satin, small spools of hand dyed silk ribbon, wired metallic ribbon-four drawers of them.  I use them on occasion for parties, weddings, and events-I did put some of them in the shop for the holidays.  This does not account for the red satin ribbon I saw on a bench in the greenhouse today-how did it get there?

My tool kit was a Christmas present from Buck a few years ago.  Wire clips, utility pruners, a girly hammer, big pliers, needle nose pliers, tweezers, a hole punch, utility shears, a slew of screwdrivers both slotted and Phillips head, a hefty 25 foot tape measure-tools I never knew existed he put in my box.  An addendum to the tool box-a small battery drill and a Dremel tool with all the bells and whistles.  That kit is the home base of a central nervous system that makes it possible for me to transform an idea into an object.  I am certain those tools get up and go out at at night-who knows where they will be in the morning. Gathering up the tools is the first move I make in the morning.

Some projects defy completion without the proper tools at hand.  My Niwashi traditional tool is Japanese designed and made.  Its angled blade makes short work of grubbing out roots and weeds, and turning soil.  After I use it, I wash and wipe the blade clean.  It is my favorite garden tool-how would you know that?  I always know exactly where it is.  It is always where I last saw it-which is where it belongs.  My rubber rake, my spade, my trowel, my five gallon weed bucket-these things might be anywhere.  Who would want them, besides me?  Sooner or later, they hitch a ride home.

My digital camera is one of my most valued tools.  A picture of a pot I want redone for winter, a garden I need weeded and staked, a tree I need lighted-the pictures tell the story better than I could.  Pictures that I print at 7 am I cannot find at nine.  Where do they go?  They might be outside next to a barrel full of redtwig dogwood.  They may be on my layout table.  They may be stuffed into my coat pocket.  Some vanish without a trace-I suspect they just picked up and inexplicably moved to Indiana.  I reprint the pictures.  Some pictures come back to me with the daily job report.  These pictures have absorbed every ounce of water from the wet hands that handled them.  These blurry sheets in the file-Monica deals with them without comment. She has infinitely more dignity and aplomb than I-where were those pictures today?  Clearly not in the truck.  In the bottom of a bucket, under a wet sleeve-on the job.

I make 5 by 7 cards for every job.  The card stock is sturdy.  I tack each card on my cork board.  Should a card come off the board, and travel to garage-trouble.  Those floating cards move in and out of my view-and my grasp. A job card on the loose-this I dread.  Who takes those cards off my board, and tosses them into the atmosphere?  Where did I leave my keys?  I know I was working on a vignette in the shop-where did I set down my coffee cup?  Where did I plant that start of European ginger? Did I plant tulips here-or over there?  Did I not order up a family of handmade life size grapevine deer-where are they?

 Christine Jamieson has worked the weekend shift for me for many years. A Brit through and through, she never blinked when I expressed my exasperation about the disappearance of my Joyce Chen shears.  The borrowers got them-she said.  The borrowers?  Who knew; a series of childrens books by Mary Norton-the first of which was published in 1952-posit the existence of the borrowers.  Little people, unbeknownst to humans, live in the floorboards of the homes of the big people.  They borrow whatever they need to survive, unseen by people of my size.  I like this story.  The borrowers-they must be moving my tools around in the middle of the night. They must need to fix or construct something.  Maybe they are bored, and like seeing me seach 10,000 square feet for a pair of shears.  They provide my life with a little challenge I did not plan on.  What could be better?


  1. I absolutely love all your blogs but Sunday’s opinion are always very special, especially this weeks. You need to publish because I need a bound copy of all your opinions.

  2. My grandmother would have said it was the “wee folk”. Great post. Actually great blog!!

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