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"I find myself at peace."

I sit in the yard sale office chair with my feet up on my workbench. I just finished restaining the deck while listening to a baseball game. The home team ignominiously lost in ten innings. After four hours on my knees with paint brush and roller, I'm grateful to simply sit but still jazzed up enough to not quite want to sit still. I survey the garage in the late afternoon sun, getting up to perform some little chore before sitting back down again. I'm burning piñon incense in the background, the smoke somehow purifying the place. I've cleaned up the brushes and tray, hanging the brushes to dry. My eye wanders to my pegboard wall, the first "improvement" I added after we moved in here.

Maybe it's only the after work beer thinking, but I consider that pegboard a fine self-portrait, one perhaps improved by the fact that I constructed it without the notion that I might have been engaged in self-portraiture, completely unselfconsciously.
I wanted to organize my tools, the ones I could never seem to find when I needed them. I have the memory of a mentally deficient mouse. Put something in a box or even a tool case and it utterly disappears from existence. If it's visually accessible, I still stand the distinct chance that I won't be able to find it in the workbench clutter. I figured that a nice, rather too anal display on pegboard might cast my tool collection into the realm of the more reliably findable, and so it has.

I started with no grand design, no central organizing principle. I generally tried to locate heavier tools nearer the bottom, figuring they'd have less distance to tumble when I dropped them. The original placements have held now for over two years. I have imprinted on the organization. For the first time in my life, I can take an instant census of tools. I'm never now left stomping around the place on a quest for the long lost screwdriver or the urgently needed but absent vice grips. They're all right there, ready-to-hand, even anxious, it seems, to do my bidding. The collection's hardly impressive, rather like its creator. More a testament to expedience, since each item was collected more or less at random, according to immediate need. Why do I even have a drywall saw? It was that incident when the moose antler hat rack fell off the rental's wall and I felt the urgent obligation to patch the resulting hole. The tumble was nobody's fault, really. The drywall screw I'd used to hang the rack seated on the edge of the underlying stud, and gave out over time. We came home to find a moose had taken a hunk out of the piano and left a small but gaping embarrassment, a possible testament to our unworthy tenancy. I became a YouTube drywall hole patching expert needing a special saw. It's part of the collection now, part of the history, as unlikely as it seemed then, now a part of me.

And so it is as my eye wanders top to bottom, right to left. I see that I have three of what I only rarely ever use and only one of a tool I use almost every week. I notice some scissors I'd forgotten I had, the very ones my mom used to cut the offending hair when I was expelled from high school for having "too long hair." I returned the next day, short one hair, with a note from my mom declaring that she'd given me a hair cut. I was quickly readmitted. My father's cherrywood handled handsaw hangs there beside the more modern model I'd bought in some swirl. I never buy tools but what I'm in a near desperate need, always under some sort of induced desperation, usually on a Sunday evening when salvation seems only clearing a stopped up sink away from me or a shelf urgently needs reinforcement. The Muse gifted me one Christmas with a complete set of open end wrenches which hang there now in pristine repose. She'd said that everyone needs such a set, though I can't remember a time when I used any of them. I can never tell what size to use, so I sort through a dozen before just using the adjustable wrench, the one that doesn't require me to mind read some fitting size.

The WWII GI combat knife my dad brought back from his short stint in the Marines hangs there, sharp as a razor, ready for some not yet anticipated use. I sharpen it in homage, I suppose. Some tools didn't appear when I started hanging them up, and I see that I left space for them, anticipating that they might one day come out of hiding and join their fellows. I'm very particular about replacing each tool as soon as a job's completed. The job's not done to my mind until the tool's back hanging on the pegboard. A psychologist could have a field day here, peering right into me and the secrets I hold most dear. I find myself having a bit of a field day here, too, quietly inventorying my life as represented on my pegboard. Another beer might have helped extend the inquiry. I light a second chunk of piñon and sense the smoke overtaking me, my feet up after four hours on my knees, I find myself at peace.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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