Losing things and finding them

Are you a person who loses things a lot of the time or just now and then? A recent New Yorker article by Kathryn Schulz takes a beautiful wander through the topic. Subtitled, Reflections on Two Seasons of Loss, Schulz examines not just the business of losing things, but also what it means to lose our minds and loved ones.

Things go missing so much in this house that I have categories for lost objects, not unlike the childhood game of calling out ‘warm’, ‘cold’ or ‘HOT HOT HOT’. I usually can tell that I’m going to retrieve a lost object before I find it and often sense its general vicinity. Lest you think that gives me some sort of advantage, know this: even a ‘hot’ lost item with a felt sense of place can take DAYS to find.

In my early twenties, my checkbook went missing so often that the bank tellers on North Street rolled their eyes to see me coming. I’ve gotten somewhat better. Medication helps.

In spite of my incapacity, family members are right to ask me where things are, since in addition to being an over-the-top loser of things, I’m a good finder. Is that uncommon? My mother used to call me “old eagle eyes” and ask me to round up her scissors.

When the “where’s my” question is posed to me, it feels like more of an imposition that it might otherwise, because I’m kinetic. Being kinetic means I have to take notes to remember anything and that to find a lost object, I have to move my body. When both boys were home over Christmas, I really enjoyed cooking for them and felt neutral about loaning the car and picking up. But the “where’s my?” routine was annoying.

“Where’s my jacket?” “Where’d I leave the fob?” “Did you move my paycheck?”

I was asked to find things I hadn’t used, touched or seen. Being winter, I’d have to unearth myself from a blanket, heating pad and lap top (that’s two cords and a lot of fabric). My joints hurt sometimes. I’d groan. Then I’d wander around the house, maybe finding their lost thing, maybe not.

Objects can move from one category of lost to another. ‘Fucking vanished’ is a category, but believe it or not, a mutable one. Some things that I could swear after a vigorous, multi-day hunt have been taken by leprechauns do in fact show up. (‘taken by leprechauns’ is a whimsical name for ‘fucking vanished’). It is especially hard when something that feels retrievable shifts into the ‘permanently gone’ category.

Frequently losing things teaches you about attachment, sharpens intuition, and inspires resourcefulness in coming up with substitutes. Humility is involved. But those are topics for another time.

Let’s instead descend into my studio, which is really messy (also a topic for another time). Yesterday when I went downstairs to find some xerox color copies I’d gone to some trouble to make a few months back, I wasn’t sure how readily I would find them. That they were pretty much right where I’d thought they’d be felt like a gift.

There are about forty-five collages ready to be mounted to card stock. Then, at last, they will be SoulCollage cards.

Because I hate to measure and really suck at it, it took a good long while to mount just five of the collages. At five a day, I’ll need eight days to get through the pile. But guess what? After an especially demoralizing day of writing, the task actually satisfied. I took my time. I enjoyed working toward a goal with manageable and discrete steps — so unlike finishing a novel (am I finishing? is it a novel?)

Off to walk Finny, then back to my laptop (wish me a more productive day!)

  • (thank you for posting on FB Michelle ! Even though we get The New Yorker, I might have missed it)

19 thoughts on “Losing things and finding them

  1. Nancy

    “Losing things frequently teaches you about attachment, sharpens intuition, and engenders resourcefulness in coming up with substitutes. But those are topics for another time.”…love this! And that last image…oh my! If you ever make another copy…
    The thing about loosing is sometimes you don’t even realize you’ve lost it…like me with my drawer of ‘art ideas’ that turned into so much more!
    I am not a big looser, even when things seem to be (and totally look to be) in complete disarray, I usually know somewhat where things are. It drives me nuts when I can’t find something! As kids my sister and I would rant and rave over where our lost ‘fill in the item (i.e. jeans or whatever) could be…we would ultimately yell that someone had “stole” it! This would seen our mom over the edge as she would come back with “right, someone broke in the house and the ONLY thing they took was your jeans!!!” The crazy-making of this statement when settle us down to joke that the “Borrowers” had taken the lost item!
    On another note, once as a school-aged child, I lost and found the same teeny tiny bracelet, a gift from my godmother, 3 times! Once it was in the area around a sprinkler head! How on earth did I find that???
    You’ve sparked such memories here Dee, I could write forever…about a couple of meaningful things that I never found, about how I drove my EX nuts because I usually knew where his stuff was too…
    I’ll spare you. πŸ™‚
    Thanks for this post.

  2. deemallon Post author

    Nancy — you remind me about so many other aspects of losing things — the things that go that we don’t realize are gone til years and years later (and what goes that we don’t even know about?). The idea that things have been stolen is, I think, absolutely unavoidable on occasion. I mean, in spite of your mother’s rational response, something being stolen is way more possible than leprechauns or the Borrowers taking it, right? Every now and then it just comes up. It inserts itself with a nasty vigor. And it’s never true. That bracelet is mystifying and its pattern of loss and recovery sounds like a story — one I would like to hear! So far from ‘sparing me’ — do tell! Your bracelet story reminds me of the time I lost a silver cuff bracelet while launching myself off of a rope swing into a pond. I shrugged (to my friend’s amazement) and considered it an offering to the spirits of the water. On occasion, I’ve done that intentionally.

    1. deemallon Post author

      it’s hard not to wonder what’s going on when the loss-level rises to a discombobulating degree. I like to blame some retrograde planet or other.

  3. Ginny Mallon

    Great post Dee. I rarely lose things, forget – yes, but lose not so much. The only think I lose consistently is jewelry. It makes me crazy, so I only wear costume unless it is something special. Therese and Gene gave me a lovely little blue aquamarine ring for confirmation in the shape of a heart and I don’t think I had it more than a few hours before I lost it. Funny enough it turned up 40 years later when I was pulling weeds for Therese in her minuscule yard filled with 4′ high weeds. I was soooo happy and then a week later it was gone again. It broke my heart twice. Makes me nuts.

    I do however have that same knack for finding things. Maybe a genetic thing? And yes, it is a pain in the ass. Especially living with a hoarder/collector with piles of crap everywhere. But it is easier to find it for them than hear the crybabying about lost things, and because I can find them, I usually am blamed for him losing it too. Makes me nuts.


    Love the collages too! I can never get my head around how to make them. Makes me sad. But I do I love their messages and quirky combos so much!

    1. deemallon Post author

      I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I lose or misplace something precious to me and a hyperventilating sense of loss overwhelms, I think: do I not believe that I deserve this? Oh that aquamarine ring! Had such a mind of its own, I guess.
      And, making collages is the easiest thing in the world. I can’t believe you would say that. Not being drawn to do it, is one thing or not wanting to use other people’s images, is another, but not getting your head around? It’s literally cutting and pasting.

  4. Mo Crow

    oh ha! love this Dee! and just to be annoying, where’s those two tiny emeralds I put in an envelope for safe keeping in 1988 and have not been able to find since?

    1. deemallon Post author

      oh Mo sorry about those gems, still with you in spirit all these decades later. You remind me of yet another category of lost item: things put in a safe place so that you won’t lose them. ARG it happens so often it’s kind of incredible!

  5. Ginny Mallon

    Yes, it is a clutch at the heart feeling of loss when they disappear.

    And no, it is not so easy to do collages. Layering, design, symbolism its very complicated. I have no prob pinching other’s pics but get stuck on the first move. Maybe I will take a class one day.

  6. peggyvonburg

    So fun to read all this and the comments too! I have the same knack at finding things but usually only do really well for other people, not myself. One of my best recoveries: Jan (husband) lost his wallet, he looked everywhere. We were sitting outside on the front porch. Our trash was down at the curb because it was trash day. Suddenly I got up, walked down the driveway and pulled back our trash can. We went through it on the spot and found the wallet. The trash truck came while we were going through it. That said I’ve been missing my favorite glasses since August 2, 2016. Love and adore your Soul Collage cards. xxox

    1. deemallon Post author

      Well what a good intuition of yours saved the wallet! I am reminded that I once found a silver and turquoise ring of mine by pawing through the garbage. I was probably 14 or 15 and I really liked that ring!

    2. deemallon Post author

      Ps. Unfortunately I have found that glasses are a little like socks in their proclivity to wander off. Thank goodness I haven’t lost my progressives yet. I go through about five pairs of readers a year.

  7. debgorr

    Laughed when I saw your category for Mo. My mother and I both specialize in things put in a safe place so they won’t get lost… I really love your bottom collage, I love considering what might be held in our hands.

    1. deemallon Post author

      it’s awful to admit how many times all I can remember about a missing item is that I so carefully ‘put it somewhere safe’. I like that last collage too. It came after a string of images addressing factors that confine imagination and creativity.. this one about opening…

  8. manhandledinmt

    Ha! I’m losing things constantly! I’ve come to the point where I just don’t worry about them anymore…they typically stay lost until they magically appear of their own accordance and no amount of coaxing, imploring, or manic searching will turn them up any sooner in my house. So Acceptance has become my Mantra Of Lost Things.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Funny! My version of acceptance is to employ (whenever possible) “the fifteen minute rule”. That rule states that if you don’t find it in fifteen minutes you should stop because you won’t find it, no matter how much longer you look during that session. Another rule that dovetails with the fifteen minute rule is: “If You Can’t Find Something, Stop Looking for it and Just Clean Up”. Sometimes just by shifting the goal to straightening up, the object seems to magically appear. Why is that, I wonder? A lessening of need? (the problem with this second rule is that if you’re not careful, you’ll start losing things just to get your house picked up!).

      Occasionally I MUST find something and neither rule can apply. Like three years ago, when I had to find the pile of papers (not just one paper, but a PILE) relating to the time sensitive application for discharge of my sister’s student loans. Paper is the worst. And deadlines with financial implications accentuate everything that’s awful about losing it. Those are times that I feel like I might start screaming and never stop.

  9. zanncarter

    I found my way here through a link on Jude Hill’s page.
    I am a bit of a ‘finder’ as well – it’s kind of a superpower. I read that article, too, and posted about it on Facebook because it was so good. Over the years, I’ve come to an understanding about the forever lost things – something I read once about how things just pass through our lives, are ours for only a discrete bit of time, and then they travel on.
    I am intrigued by your SoulCollage process – you do not make your collages right on the 5 X 8 mat boards? I would love to know more about how you work. Perhaps I should look around a bit more here on your blog…

    1. deemallon Post author

      Hi there! Is your name Zann? I haven’t really posted much about how I make the cards but maybe your question will inspire me to. I like the smooth finish that a xerox offers and I find that many magazine images are just too big to properly work with at the card sized scale. The collages end up being reduced by anywhere from 70 to 80%.


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