Lost and Found

I lost my favourite scarf last month. I’d spent days looking everywhere for it: under the bed, in the campervan, in the shed, but it had just vanished. And as the days grew colder I missed it even more. It’s just the right size (one size does not fit all, not really) and the colours always cheer me up. It’s also been all around the world with me in our Big Year Out in the van so I’m emotionally attached to the thing. I was just getting to the point of letting it go when, you’ve guessed it, there it was. I visited an old family cottage in the north coast as a birthday treat and it was languishing (attractively) on the chaise longue by the window. I found it when I wasn’t even looking for it. 

And then to top it all off I wandered into a secondhand bookshop and there on a shelf was a literature book I recognised from my university days. Smiling, I picked it up and opened the front flap, thinking I’d jog my memory about what was inside. Reader, it was my VERY OWN COPY. There in teenaged handwriting was my name. I last opened those pages in 1994. It had obviously been upset to be given away and had relentlessly tracked me down ever since. I held it to my chest and whispered sorry. Needless to say I bought it and have added it to my library once more. Another lost item that I found without even trying.

I think I try too hard for all sorts of things. Trying to make a success of writing, trying to find a healthy life balance, trying to foster good friendships. But so often life just falls into place when you least expect it. Some things flourish when they’re left alone a bit (plants do this too, for some reason I still cannot fathom, I definitely try too hard to keep the damn things alive) so I’m trying to hold life more gently. After all, if I grasp onto it too hard, there’s a chance I’ll choke it, so I’m letting life breathe around me. I’ll walk among trees, I’ll notice more, I’ll stroke my cat’s soft face and not seek anything else in that moment. Oh and I’ll wrap my scarf around me and hold onto my books, knowing that even if I lose them again, they’ll find their way back to me in the end.


It’s said that memories fade. As we grow older our capacity to make new memories lessens and we start to focus instead on times long ago – Mrs Smith down the road who would swing her stick at kids who passed by, the odd young man at the bus stop who’d talk to himself, the teacher who’d smile when you got the answer right. 

Life’s timeline stretches in a strange way depending on where we stand within it. It shrinks and expands and even stops. That long night in hospital, the day you stood on top of a mountain and felt the wind in your hair, the moment you said a final farewell. Images flash by and the heart struggles to keep up. Did you remember that right? Was it raining or not? Memories can be unreliable too, that’s the thing. Our brains are clever. They protect us all day long from things that can hurt and I think that’s marvellous. 

But it’s important to pause on the timeline now and again and take stock. Particular dates are the perfect opportunity to do so. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my brother’s death. I’ve spoken about it before and yet every year, when the leaves change colour and the nights draw in, my body tells my mind to remember. I get lethargic, snappy and down. And soon enough I nod and realise what’s happening. Grief speaks to us and it’s worth listening. You can place it in a drawer for a while, if the time isn’t right, but soon enough it rattles around in there until you open up and take a look. It’s dark inside but the light gets in too. 

And I’m noticing that eight years on from that awful day the snapshots in the drawer are brighter – Stephen’s giggle, his adoring smile at his young daughter, his unbeatable sarcasm. He was kind and funny and gentle. He was here for a time and he was loved. 

For those of us left behind, remembering is hard. But in many ways it’s easy too. And soon enough it folds itself within what is left and becomes part of who we are. And we find we can breathe again.