Today I found in my closet my favorite shirt. I thought it had burned. That which was lost is found. I thought of that shirt a few days ago. Like so many things lost in the fire, I felt sadness but also a fond memory of my old, soft, denim shirt.
When I found the shirt today I was confused. I picked it up and started to take it to my spouse’s side of the closet. I stopped and really inspected it because it was so confusing. It actually took me a bit of time to realize that it was my shirt, and that it was my old, soft, denim friend. Over lunch I asked my spouse if he had put it on my side of the closet and he replied in the affirmative. When I asked where he found it, he said it was, “mixed up in my shirts.” We both nodded wordlessly sharing the feeling of not knowing what your clothes look like and consequently not being able to tell if someone else’s clothes were mixed in with yours.
I truly thought the shirt was lost in the fire. After it was found, I remembered that for the first few days after the fire I wore it almost every day. It was one of the three shirts I had and the one that was comforting the way only an old cotton shirt can be.
I found the “Big Drive” today too. That which was lost is found. We had lost the drive and had made sense of not being able to find it by believing that it had been left behind in the press of evacuating the house. I even wrote a blog post about it on August 13, Variable Memories http://intermountainwest.tumblr.com/post/29328150613/august-13-variable-memories.
It was by chance we even found it. Today we concluded that my “Blue Drive” had given up the ghost, dying of old age. I got very sad thinking about the data I had lost on the Big Drive and now my Blue Drive was dead. Together those drives held over a Terabyte of data that represented my life for the past 15 years. Wanting to stave off more loss, I asked my spouse for a big hard drive so I could make more backups of everything I had.
When I plugged the drive he gave me into my laptop I saw the Big Drive show up. I sighed and felt a stab in my heart wondering why a drive that was not there kept showing up on my computer. The Big Drive was good and truly gone. Yet, here it was. I clicked on it expecting the same result as ever, “Location not available….the information might have been moved to a different location.” What I saw was my data. Bewildered I said, “The Big Drive is here? How did the Big Drive get here?” My spouse was both excited and perplexed. I said, “I am not going to get excited until I know for sure.” I proceeded to dig around in the data trying to verify that it was, in fact, the Big Drive. I tried not to hyperventilate but my respiration was shallow and erratic. After a bit, I could say for certain that which was lost was found.
We just stopped and thought about why the data might have gone missing; why did we not find it before, why when we had looked so systematically we could not find the Big Drive data? I plugged the Big Drive into my desktop computer and the directory showed empty. I plugged it into a different port on my desktop and the directory was empty. I put it back on the laptop and the directory and the data were there. I plugged it back into my desktop thinking I must be missing something. The light on the drive did not even illuminate. I wiggled a few things moved a plug or two and the light turned on. I still could not find it on my computer. A few minutes later I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a message fly by asking permission to format a new hard drive. I said no and there was my data. That which was lost was found.
Losing my shirt and my data, dealing with their loss, and then finding them again was strange. You would think that jubilation or a feeling of “how could I have missed that?” would arise, but no. What did arise was an awareness of the overwhelming weariness of dealing with this magnitude of loss. The shirt was one single item from a closet full of clothes. The drive was one of many data storage devices in our house. Together they were two items from a home that was literally filled data, antique furniture, textiles and photographs and books from all over the world. We will never again see the 1840s potato stamp basket we had; the whale painting from a now-dead Aboriginal artist; the data from our old projects—notes taken by hand on yellow legal pads. We will never see those books again, nor will anyone ever see photos printed from our collection of antique glass plate negatives from Western photographers. Any new prints will be made from prints.
Grief is a strange companion. After the immediate jolt of loss, most of the time it follows lightly behind you, little more than a shadow. When you go around the corner you may see it out of the corner of your eye. When you least expect it, you are face-to-face with the crashing feeling of things radically changed and the knowledge that things that can never be the same.
Some things that are lost are not found. Sometimes it is right to know that.