It was last seen somewhere between late evening and the old wooden desk. In that inarticulate pause connecting time and space, it slipped out of her reach.
The search was in its fourth year. She knew it was somewhere in the splinters of the house. It was a journal, covered in the blue of a peacock feather, bordered by filigrees of gold. It was not a person – merely an object – but she longed for it like an old friend.
It was created so long ago now. Her handwriting streamed through each page, pirouetting with flourishes and swirls. Words took shape, spreading their wings like shearwaters in the sunlight. Inspiration interlaced in ornate textures of verse. Sentiment caught in a butterfly net of words.
She could almost smell it. She peeled back each layer of the house until it was stripped bare. Every excavation fuelled by the memory of each page.
She remembered the shutter-like snippets of travels. The temple fused with moss and jungle in a twist of time. The boy walking the streets with a rooster on a leash. The four monks on a footbridge, their orange robes like semaphores against the cerulean sky.
She remembered the kaleidoscope particles of dreams. The shimmer of purple pin-wheel flowers. The swoop of velvet music. The wild geraniums growing in her soul. The soft protective eye of an elephant. The church bells ringing through the valley, catching whispery warm breezes as she lay in deep grass.
She remembered soothing words, softly murmured. She remembered fiery words, quick as a flickering reel. On days where she dangled between the gutter and the sky she recorded the steady rhythm of her heartbeats.
The journal had survived moves across continents. It had survived lovers, illnesses, and childbirth. It had started to fray at its bindings. Flaps of paper awkwardly protruded from its side. But it had survived. It seemed strange now that it left so unceremoniously. No fire, no flood, no long goodbyes. Just a slow intangible drift into a jellylike blur.
The house was painstakingly upturned. High shelves were cleared. Implausible corners were poked at. Stubborn cupboards kept offering the same unlikely possibilities. Again and again.
The search became more urgent with time. If only she could hold those words again. They were fragments of her soul. She was desperate to fuse herself back together again.
As she reached deep into a drawer, she remembered the last page. It was a journey back to her childhood home. A journey to retrieve what seemed irretrievable. To bring into focus what was fading in the filmy shadows of black and white photos. Her story retraced her steps across oceans and cultures, down laneways and across the market square. Until her feet were at the front gate. Along the way she observed bigger things were smaller. Colorful details were grey. There was no fanfare, no fragrance. Just the clanging of the paper factory and the stench of the river nearby. She looked up at the gate to find the house replaced by two apartments. She barely recognized the space. Nothing was the same.
What if the journal was not the same? What if it had lost lustre? Maybe some memories are better in the remembering. Iridescent in the reframe of time.
Her life had continued long after the journal had ended. She began to wonder if youthful reflections were in fact wispy thin, lacking the rich curves of maturity. She had since gathered new words punctuated with the weight of experience. She imagined the taste of disappointment if she found the journal now.
And so the search was called off. The memory of the journal was placed in a gentle corner. Forever held in fondness. Contently left to breathe on its own.
Maybe the purpose of lost things is to remain lost. Preserved in the sweetness of nostalgia. Suspended in the mystery of pursuit.
In its place, she started a new journal. Fresh words. Fresh stories. Fresh dreams. Robust recollections of a life magnificently lived. As she soared through the pages, she wondered why she had left it so long.
Lost things give birth to new things. Sparkling in their clarity. Boundless in their possibilities.
* A longer version of this piece was previously published online via subscription in Bide magazine. Sadly Bide is no longer in publication – though may return at a future date. I am delighted to publish this revised version here on my blog.