Losing It (And Rediscovering It)
A few days ago I misplaced something in my own house.
It was a small stack of books. Five copies of my own novel that were earmarked for a giveaway on Goodreads. I had them. They were on the kitchen counter, right near the breadbox. They were there for days. And then I picked them up because I began to worry that they might get dirty, so near the breadbox – and the fridge. And the dog treats. And the amazingly agile high-jumping cats.
So I picked them up.
And then I couldn’t find them.
Oh my God, how I looked.
I remembered picking them up to protect them. I sort of remembered that it was about the same time I put away the Christmas presents. So I checked first with every Christmas present I put away. And then I checked where we keep the gift wrap and gift bags – since I probably put the good reusable stuff back there – I’m conscientious that way. Just not conscientious about whether I had books in my hand at the same time.
I checked in the box where I keep the copies of my first novel. I checked my “office” – the extra bedroom that I have made over as an art studio. And that room was NOT in good shape. But a lot of the stuff hanging around in there hasn’t been touched in a long time. Newer shit wouldn’t be under the older shit. Would it?
I checked every bookcase in the house. I could have put books in a bookcase. That would make sense.
I checked every shelf, every windowsill. Every flat surface and every surface that is not flat but could still hold shit if you balanced it just right.
I checked every cabinet. If I was seeking cat-protection, inside a cabinet would be a good place. Or inside a closet. I checked even the hallway closet, which contains coats and boots. Because ‘boots’ is only one letter away from ‘books’, and I could have been free-associating.
I checked the pantry. Maybe I was snacking when I put the books away, and I put down the books to get a cookie. That happens.
I checked inside boxes with Christmas decorations. Which would have been interesting, since I didn’t put up any Christmas decorations this year.
I checked all my bureau drawers. Did I fold the books inside a sweater?
I checked and checked and checked.
I checked in my head when I was supposed to be sleeping.
The following morning, I told my husband I was distraught. Which I am sure he did not know. Because I had been so calm and subtle about the whole thing. Especially that fifteenth time I said that I hated myself.
And I started to tear the house apart.
Three hours later I found them. In a box. Under the stash of copies of my other book.
How in the world does new shit end up under old shit?
But here’s the thing:
I was delighted. I was happier than if I had never lost the books in the first place.
To found what was lost – it truly makes the found items so much more precious.
And of course, it made me contemplate more than just the Prodigal Son parable. Yes, that kid was pretty much of a disappointment, but Dad sure missed him when he was gone. And celebrated his return.
It made me consider how much we take for granted that we would miss if it were gone.
Years ago, my own Dad temporarily lost his senses of taste and smell. My happy-go-lucky father became a grouch. He realized how much pleasure you get from the taste and even the aroma of good food. How he celebrated the eventual return of that pleasure.
Maybe there are a few things we should “misplace” once in a while. So when we finally rediscover our lost items, their return can be even more sweet, more precious.
A few that I can think of:
Old Friends. I have misplaced an old friend or two myself. Oh, but to see them again! Someone who you giggled with over your own secret jokes, someone whose hand-me-downs you shared, someone you learned about the world with, who knows how your bravery is all pretense.
Ambition. I don’t mean, ‘I want to be a manager by the time I am 40’ type of ambition. I like to think of ambition as that unique combination of passion and perseverance. When you love something so much you’ll put any amount of time into it, willingly, in order to see, to have, to tend your desire. The rediscovery of that pure ambition invigorates your brain.
A Sense of Wonder. Life can be pretty boring when you lose your sense of wonder. But there are so many ways to rediscover it. You can take photographs with your phone, for God’s sake. How does that even happen? Watch ducklings follow their mama. Who taught them to do that? Who made the first violin? Did that inventor plan on making the most beautiful sound in the world? What makes a pineapple look so spiky and yet taste so sweet? Don’t be in such a rush. Let awe overtake you. A sense of wonder invigorates your soul. Stop and look at the ceiling at Grand Central Station. You are not too busy to look up.
Speaking of looking up –
My cousin Jim took this time-lapse photography of the stars.
And come to think of it, my cousin fits all three of the above things that are easy to misplace, but oh so sweet to rediscover.
Jim’s an old friend. My cousin my own age who celebrated every holiday and birthday with me. Who knows the awkward and earnest, fragile and spunky, silly and serious kid I was. And I know the brilliant and shy, curious and kind, athletic and happy kid he was. And he is a man in possession of the very definition of ambition that I desire – that pairing of passion and perseverance – for Astronomy. From his earliest boyhood until now. More than sixty years of looking into telescopes because he needed to know what was out there.
Wonder is out there.