Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Intent to be Lost

"So many things seemed filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster"
~Excerpt from the poem "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop

I was thinking a bit this morning about lostness. This week has been such a one for me, wandering circles in my mind, going nowhere, breaking down. Wondering why so many things get lost. Wishing I didn't always feel so lost, myself.

On my second breakfast of today, circling cereal absently in my bowl, I came into focus on the spoon I was using. I love this spoon. It's not gold or silver, and it isn't fancy at all, but... My older sister and I, sometime in our early childhood, were flying with our parents to the States for a visit. They had those handy take-out bags on the plane; most people called them barf bags, but we could see their true purpose. So we took our take-out bags, filled them with cookies (the flight attendants loved us, so we got lots of extra goodies from them), and then went up and down the aisle collecting cast-off treasures from other travellers. I'm not sure just when exactly our parents, seated somewhere else on the plane, discovered our entrepreneurial designs, but we did have to retire back to our seat eventually. Yet even so, when we got off the plane and offered up our treasures to our parents, they were surprised.

In addition to cookies, apples, sugar packets, towelettes, pretzels and some salt & pepper packets, we had taken several sets of silverware. Yes, real honest to goodness (not silver) silverware. They used to use those on planes, before it was just first class, before it was unsafe to have it at all. And it didn't occur to us that you were supposed to leave the silverware on the plane! So, we had this fine mini-collection of both of our sets of silverware--knives, forks, and spoons. Monogrammed with the airline's name, no less.

All these many years later, I wonder what drawers in what countries those forks and knives and spoons came to rest in, so far away from their airline home, so settled onto the earth instead of flying over it endlessly. And in fact, that airline shut down years ago. But somehow, I still have that one solitary spoon and it makes me smile every time I see it. Smile and remember two brown skinned blond haired girls going up and down the airplane aisle with barf bags. Smile and remember being told to NEVER take silverware off a plane again (though I'm pretty sure our parents probably muffled their laughter at our shocking actions). Smile and think how funny it is that such a small thing can still echo into today.

I think about that in terms of lostness. The fact is, I know that as bewildering and exhausting as the experience of lostness is, and even how frightening and overwhelming as it sometimes grows, I would rather live my whole life lost than ever walk on a road.

My youngest sister and I have a plan lying between us; our golden egg which we look forward to hatching. When she has a breath and I can get 3 months off in a row, we are going to walk from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland, and then ferry our way across the islands at the top to the highest one, to Unst. I dream of that place I have never seen. I dream of us wandering through all that land, wet and smelly and angry and perfectly wonderously content. They say that there are 3 ways you can do that trip--walk along the roads, travel from camp-site to camp-site, or wander by the stars through fields, hobbiting your way across the world. Can you guess which way we'll go?

I think of all the things I've lost through the years, the toys and the dolls, the pens and the keys and the books--so many books. The ID cards and tickets. The friends and the homes. Colours. Villages and cities and smells. Countries I love. Languages I now can only cry in.

But I think the fact is, we carry the truth of all these things with us still. I think someday, even if I am denied my freedom, denied my belongings, denied my dignity; I think even if I am cut off from my memories completely through cruelty or the naturally unnatural brokenness of the body, I think I will still be myself. And myself holds all these things, holds the image the imprint the timeless impact of all these things, of all the things which ever touch or shape us. So how can they ever be lost to us? And how can we ever truly be lost? Why should we ever despair in our feelings of lostness?

Maybe the experience of lostness is just tasting the wonderous expanse of the world that exists outside of time, and being perfectly overwhelmed. Perfectly.


  1. Should I take anything away from the fact that I'm the only sister NOT mentioned? Hmm...

    (Also, I don't know if the cutlery from that trip was included, but I know that the trailer has a whole set of airplane settings from KLM, ALM, and Delta.)

  2. Aw, don't take anything from that. I wasn't going through a tick list of sisters. It just so happened that 2 popped out. But I suppose I could always devote an entire post to you...hehehe

    As for the cutlery---I didn't say we actually regarded the mandate to not remove any more silverware from the planes. In fact, I had to fight the urge this very summer when some fine monogrammed real cutlery showed up on one of my flights!