Lost and Found

by Maria Theresa Maggi on May 9, 2016

phone book

Back of phone book

When I was moving from the blue house on Asbury Street, there was a lot of downsizing and consolidating going on. You may recall how in the post The Right Stuff I looked back on my time at the house ensconced on my bed behind the old hardwood hospital table I had decided to sell at a garage sale because I didn’t need it the way I once did.

I also wrote about the treasures I found in its drawers: a simple directive from a hospice counselor, a card from my son, a piece of writing about the blue house I had started many years before that.

What I didn’t mention in that post was that I also had several old address books crammed into the drawer of that hospital table, slips of paper falling out of each of them, binding starting to fray and slip.

After I moved to Van Buren Street, I consolidated all my addresses into the little book you see above. I wanted to keep things simple. I also got a “smart phone” the winter I lived there and began the process of putting people into my phone–so to speak.

When Spring of 2015 came and I found myself Portland bound, a dear friend gave me a suitcase with wheels that would fit my art supplies in it so I could neatly bring them back and forth between Moscow and my son’s house on our many trips back and forth while the fate of my Van Buren Street house was decided and I looked for the little place on 10th Ave I now call home.

I tucked this little tiny book into one of the pockets so I would know where it was. And then, when I was actually moved in, I checked all the compartments, over and over. It seemed to have disappeared altogether.

For those who have everything in a smart phone, the loss of such an old-fashioned thing as an address book that you write phone numbers and addresses into by hand is at best quaint, and for a lot of people, simply obsolete. But for most of my life it’s been the major reference tool for my social and professional life–where I kept the names and addresses of people I wanted to keep in touch with when I moved away from a place, where I could always find a relative’s address at Christmas time,  that honest guy who sold me quality firewood, or the numbers I called to help or find a beloved pet.

Luckily for me, at least some of the street addresses in that book had been typed into a document for mailing labels when my poetry chapbook came out a few years ago. But I still missed phone numbers of people I never got a chance to put into my phone, some of whom I really missed and knew would understand the stories I thought I wanted to tell them about my adventures in adjusting to my new life in Portland.

I have had plenty of experience over the years of times when much cherished or needed objects have disappeared, seemingly on their own, defying the words my mother used to intone authoritatively when I had lost something I was searching for as a child: “Well, it didn’t just get up and walk away.” Yet I also learned over the years, that just as mysteriously as some objects had disappeared, eluding all the practical strategies for retracing my steps I got so good at, that at some point, whenever they were ready, they would very likely just “reappear” again.

The most strange example of this that comes to mind is a rune that is part of an oaken hand-carved set made for me by a special guy in my past, the one called wunjo, which, in abbreviated summation, means “joy.” I had the set out for a full or new moon night with a couple of my women friends. One of them had also brought her own hand-made set. At some point we had traveled out to the star garden gate, but not gone in that I remember, and the runes were in the house. Still, it had completely disappeared.

I was distraught, to say the least, since the set was a once-in-a-lifetime gift, and could not be replaced. The special guy had long gone on to another life, and even if he had been around, the wood the runes were made from was long gone.

I searched. And searched. I prayed. I mourned. It seemed like a terrible sign that the rune for “joy” had been lost. I tried to think of what I may have thought or done inadvertently to attract such a portent. Finally I had give up and let go.

Months past, winter months, long days of cold and snow. I had searched everywhere in the house and everywhere in the star garden before the snow fell, even though I was sure we hadn’t been in there, and so were the other two friends who were with me the night it disappeared. In time I resigned myself to it wanting to be wherever it was and forgot to look for it. It seems to me it was a turn of the seasons and more before one spring day I was digging in a point of the star to plant some carnations or cosmos or pansies next to the lady’s mantle, which my garden trowel struck something hard several inches below the surface.

There, completely darkened and encrusted with dirt, so as to be almost unrecognizable, was wunjo. Joy, it seems, had literally resurrected itself out of the earth.

I, too, was overjoyed, and intensely humbled by the mystery of how in the world it could ever have gotten there. As I write this, it suddenly occurs to me that perhaps a squirrel had found it (but how? if it had been in the house all along as we all remembered. . .) and diligently buried it to save as a snack.

It’s still quite a bit more dark than the others, as if it were sent to the underworld and never quite shed the dark caul of that realm, earning the meaning of joy through the paradox of its opposite, sorrow. The moisture of the earth heavy with snow, too, must have widened the crack at its edge. But here it is, after all these years, returned to be a part of the set, and yet distinctive, apart from it, too.


So I wasn’t even surprised when my address book reappeared one morning, in a pocket in the same suitcase I had searched numerous times. From where I sat on my yoga mat, the suitcase (or the address book itself?) seemed to “call” to me from behind the closet door to come look in it one last time, despite the fact that I had declared the address book officially lost for months. I knew when I looked again, though it made no sense, it would simply be where it wasn’t before–and it was.

It was so comforting to at last hold in my hands again the names and numbers of long time friends and family. As an object filled with memories, it was proof that though my life has changed so much in the last couple of years, I still carried with me all the fond feelings and conversations I’d had when I’d dialed these numbers. I read through the whole thing, smiling even to remember the teddy bear of a man I used to call each year to buy tamarack for the masonry stove.

I only actually called one friend, someone I had not spoken to since I left Moscow, and who doesn’t use social media. I told her about seeing a woman behind the Alberta Street Co-op sitting in the sun eating a snack who had looked so much like her to me in that moment that I’d had to stop myself from calling out her name and asking if it was really her, in the way that happens when you suddenly miss someone who can’t possibly be right where you are that you conjure them right before your eyes.

Perhaps, though, the address book had been “lost” for so long because I needed time to simply live the life I was trying to establish in Portland, without narrating it back to others who were not here. Sometimes the objects in my life I cherish go missing and so do the words to convey what’s happening in the moment. Sometimes the present moment has simply to be lived, and not described simultaneously. I have to trust that later, when it’s time, I’ll suddenly know that the words, the names, the numbers–the joy–have returned.

It’s hard to lose something I love. But it isn’t as hard to stop looking for it as it used to be. I’ve learned it’s more likely to resurface if I don’t look for it.  It’s a way of making sense when I least expect it–by letting life surprise me.

Maria (moonwatcher)


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Louise May 10, 2016 at 7:23 am

Maria, I swear there are mischievous sprites that play tricks on us, taking our cherished possessions and hiding them from us for a while, then spontaneously bringing them back! It happens too often to too many people in the world for it to not be some naughty little trickster spirit. (smile) It certainly can’t be that we are not “seeing” those items when we look one, two, three times and more in the same place. Of course it IS good to let things go that we have attached too much worldly value on. It is just hard to shed those attachments…


2 Maria Theresa Maggi May 10, 2016 at 7:43 am

Yes, Louise! 🙂 I think these little sprites, whoever they are, give us the opportunity to shift our hyper-focus or attachment. Sinking so deep into the attachment that we feel like drowning seems to feed the naughtiness!! 🙂


3 Donna Betts May 10, 2016 at 11:23 am

My experience exactly — Once I lost a pair of reading glasses that I loved — the frames were red and I thought they were snazzy.
I used to walk in my garden and hang them on my blouse. One day I realized they were gone – I retraced my steps and realized I had raked some leaves and more than likely the glasses were in the trash barrel — I went all through those leaves – nothing -looked all over the yard where I had been putzing about. Two years later my new dog dug them up — not sure where he found them but they did return. I have ruminated over things like that many times as have made similar observations as you — I like your club! 🙂


4 Maria Theresa Maggi May 10, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Thank you Donna! I love this story about your dog digging up your snazzy red glasses two years after the fact! And yes, nice to be in the same club. 🙂


5 Veronica May 10, 2016 at 4:00 pm

There are gremlins everywhere, loving to cause mischief and making us all feel like we’re going crazy! This happens to me quite often. 🙂 Though some things have remained lost for many years, and, as you say, are where they should be right now (though it sometimes saddens me that place is not with me). But who knows? Perhaps a gremlin will bring it back! I guess we need patience and openness to surprise to see what turns up. I’m glad you found your address/phone book, and will no longer be losing touch with cherished friends.


6 Maria Theresa Maggi May 11, 2016 at 7:34 am

Hi Veronica–gremlins! Oh you made me smile. 🙂 That’s what my Mom used to call them! 🙂 I tend heavily toward cultivating that patience and openness to surprise, which, for me, has to extend beyond whether I see the thing in question ever again or not–but still, it’s a very nice surprise when I do! 🙂 xoxo


7 Lee May 15, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Maria, as always, a lovely and thought-provoking post! Although I’ve been using my phone for contacts for years, I still have a much-loved address book, embellished with old paintings of horses, that I can’t bring myself to get rid of. Despite the fact that most of the numbers are obsolete, the book itself holds its own comfort.

Unfortunately, when I lose things, they tend to stay gone–but now I have hope that they’ll show back up when the time is right. 🙂

And I love this line: “Sometimes the present moment has simply to be lived, and not described simultaneously.” I couldn’t agree more.


8 Gena May 20, 2016 at 10:22 am

What a great story, Maria! I always feel that lost objects belong in two categories: the things we know have genuinely been lost, and the ones we suspect are hiding someplace, however out of our reach. I totally agree that the hiding ones tend to resurface at fortuitous and meaningful moments in life.

And I also really appreciate your thoughtful observation that perhaps the address book needed to be out of our reach while you were putting down roots in your new home, and creating new ties and experiences. Sometimes we do need to remove ourselves a little bit from the customary “matrix” of our lives and friendships in order to settle into a new place (or even a new phase).



9 Maria Theresa Maggi May 20, 2016 at 10:56 pm

Gena, I like your two categories! (Unfortunately a very expensive pair of glasses fell into that first one. But then I realized I had never really felt comfortable with them, and in the end “ended up” with ones I truly love. . .) And thanks for getting how something familiar being “lost” can give us the time and space to settle in to new circumstances. I so appreciate your insightful reading of my posts. xoxo


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