Life in Community

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Life in Community

I’ll Be Darned

June 13, 2017 by

Everyone has a hobby, or so the saying goes. My older sons handcraft fishing lures in alarming quantities, my youngest draws art on household furniture with a ballpoint pen, and my husband parses* sentences. Yes, as in parse rhymes with farce.

My mother took to ransacking the local glass recycling depots looking for uniquely shaped and colored bottles which she then cut into drinking glasses. Each time I returned home from college, I noticed a new set on the shelf, long clear Absoluts mingled with smaller brown Budweisers. We tended to look the other way when Mom went out collecting, but that never dampened her enthusiasm.

As the world wobbles along, I wonder how much time I should spend on recreation. If we all really lived for others there would be precious little time to think of entertainment. I’m not now referring to over-the-top selfishness, but I often do have a niggling wonderment of how to strike the balance between living for others, and spending time on myself.

I don’t have many hobbies. I’m not sure what happened first, but somewhere along the way I either ran out of time, or I lost energy to utilize the time I did have. Isn’t there always someone to help, dishes to wash, guests to host, good deeds to do? Life is too full for leisure, right?

Not true! On special nights, when the children sleep and my husband corrects papers, I darn socks. Lamplight, hot tea, and holey socks: my secret passion.

Dori darning socks

Before beginning, I triage the waiting pile. Socks with small holes are attended first, and these involve weaving a warp and woof. My needle moves back and forth, back and forth. The cross-hatching soon creates a neat cover. I feel like a fringe artist as my pile steadily reduces.

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “A hobby is not a holiday. It is not merely a momentary relaxation necessary to the renewal of work. . . . a hobby is not half a day but half a lifetime.” C.S. Lewis goes deeper to point out that “Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of – something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side?”

Time moves quickly along. Under the warm light of the lamp, there remain socks that need specialty care. Here is a sock missing an entire heel that can only be repaired with a graft. I rummage through my donor pile to find a perfect match, and before long thin air is good solid heel. The last sock is really far gone, and will need a complete cuff transplant. This is too difficult for tonight, and must be saved for another day; I need to seek a donor. Donor socks are not easy to find, because I have a hard time saying goodbye to such old, patched friends.

I darn. I’ve become like my mother in an eclectic search to create something beautiful from the ordinary with an urge that few understand. No, my finished products do not gleam, like her cut glasses. There are no large sets, only companionable pairs, hidden away where no one can see.

I darn because I wish that something new would break through our world, and in me.

I darn because much is unholy in the world that needs healing.

And I darn with the certainty of renewal. One day there will be a new time. Until then, my needle can still heal a hole, or whole a heel, one tidy stitch at a time.

*A housewife’s explanation of sentence parsing: Imagine a sentence is a quilt with a complicated pattern. The pattern is formed by the words in the sentence. If the sentence is beautiful or unusual, then the quilt is equally intricate and unique. Think single sentences like Dickens’s “It was the best of times,” or Jefferson’s Preamble to the United States Constitution, or even (wow, what a quilt!) multiple sentences like Donald Rumsfeld’s “Known unknowns.” Now imagine all the words arranged and mapped, and that’s parsing, a grammatical analysis of sentences.


About the author

Dori Moody holding a cat

Dori Moody

Dori Moody lives at the Danthonia Bruderhof in Australia. She and her husband Henry nurture four children, one cat, and...

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  • I liked your essay on hobbies. Would like to hear more.

    Wanda Brotherton