Sunday, June 17, 2007

Object Lesson

My intention for this morning was to wake up and get back into my writing routine and then, as a reward, write a blog post. I haven't been much in the writing mood recently. I think it was Charles Bukowski who said something like "Writing is easy. Just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein." Given that I've felt emotionally anemiac the last few weeks, I just haven't been willing to open a vein. Or even the tiniest capillary.

Today was going to be different. I planned to get back into my 2-page quota mode and read the newly cut down draft of my first novel. I had some notes on ideas to organise and a little bit of research to do. A cheerful Sunday morning close to the summer solstice - the opportunities for recharging, regrouping, and restarting my projects could not have been better.

But then I lost my keys. I'm 95% certain that they fell out of my jacket pocket while I was frolicking with Toby in one of the nearby fields. Peter and I went out there after dinner so he could take a few photographs. I didn't realise my keys were missing until I went to lock the door before bedtime.

So, instead of going to sleep while thinking about my books and then waking refreshed and ready to work, I went to bed worried about my keys. I knew no one was going to walk off with them from a cow field, but I did not like that they were out of my possession. Outside my control. I woke up several times during the night, in a cold sweat, thinking "I need my keys!"

Shortly after waking up at 6, I put on my wellies and went out to search for the keys. I spent an hour looking, but I didn't find them. All I got for my trouble was wet jeans and countless midge bites. I could narrow the search area to about the size of a movie screen, but the grass is very long and dense.

After an hour, I conceded it wasn't going to be a quick job and went back home for breakfast. Then I returned to the field with my hurley and spent another hour searching. I even tried crawling on the ground, since my jeans were already wet. Although the grass was flattened in some places, it's so thick that anything as heavy as keys would probably fall right through it. I could have been looking right at my keys, but the curtain of grass could completely obscure them.

I took a break and went home, where I wanted to do something that I could easily accomplish and feel good about. So I filled out my amended tax return for the US government. (I filed without all my paperwork and it turns out that they owe me a tidy refund.) The form was byzantine in is directions and the technical writer in me was horrified. I was also frustrated and angry. Plus, I really wanted to find my keys. It had become an obsesssion. I even asked the Internet how to find my keys. (The delightfully retro Professor Solomon provided a helpful 12-point plan, but it didn't include any tips about searching through grass that was at least a foot-long in some places.

Still wanting to check another thing off my to-do list, I went for my daily run. The clarity I get from running gave me a great idea - the problem with the search is that the grass is too thick to see through effectively, but it's too much of a pain to crawl around on the ground looking. What if I walked around in my bare feet, which would certainly register the feeling of keys if I stepped on them? Touch seemed the only useful sense in this case. (Well the legendary sixth sense would have come in handy, but I am not so gifted.)

In the end, I could only bring myself to walk around in my socks. The idea of cow pies, slugs, beetles, and hook worms made me crave a layer of anything between my foot and the elements. A thickish sock was nearly as good as bare feet but seemed less prone to creating a moment of horrible, disgusting discovery.

An hour and a half later, I had nothing to report but nettle stings and a sinking feeling that the keys might be well and truly gone. They are either in that field, hidden inadvertainly in some weird part of the house, or were stolen by faeries. I had no choice but to move on to the secret 13th principle of Dr. Solomon's 12 step plan. Summed up in five words: let the lost item go. He waxes philosophical about it: "Until then, accept that you are being offered a lesson: in patience…or humility…or nonattachment to the things of this world."

On the short walk back to the house, carrying a hurley in one hand and my shoes in the other, I thought about what lesson was on offer. Is it a test to see how well I can shake something off? Was this about patience? Was this about knowing when to give up?

When I explained all of this to Peter, he shrugged and said "The lesson is keep your keys in your pants pocket."

10 Comments:

At 17 June 2007 at 18:48, Blogger Radio Free Newport said...

Peter is a smart man.

Amy routinely loses things. When she says something like, "where are my keys [ipod, sandals, etc.]?" my usual response is, "it wasn't my turn to watch it." That never goes over well.

 
At 17 June 2007 at 22:40, Blogger laurie said...

you know, that "open a vein" quote has been variously attributed to red smith and to mark twain. never heard it attributed to bukowski before. i wonder who really said it.

doug lost the house key on a dog walk last week. not all of his keys--this is a spare front-door key that we keep on a very snazzy elvis presley keychain that i bought years ago at Graceland.

the only thing he can figure is that it fell out of his pocket when he stooped to clean up after boscoe. (ah, the joys of city dogs.) his reaction was quite different from yours: he was furious with himself. possibly because this is maybe the 8th or 9th time he's lost a house key in the 12 years we've lived here.

it's sure good to have you back.

 
At 17 June 2007 at 22:44, Blogger laurie said...

various google entries also attribute it to hemingway, to "an old adage," and to various bloggers and academics who appear to be pretending to have come up with it themselves.

but i'm pretty sure it was Red smith.

ok, i'm obsessing now....

 
At 18 June 2007 at 09:55, Anonymous Claire said...

I lose my keys daily...Matt would say hourly. It's like I have "housekey blackouts" where one minute I'm in the kitchen with them in my hand next minute I come out of a trance and I'm in the living room and no idea where they are.

You could always claim it goes with being artistic :)

 
At 18 June 2007 at 11:01, Blogger David said...

Write a letter to the local paper asking a metal detectorist to step forward and it will take all of 15 minutes to recover your keys. I recently found the wedding ring of a man at Conon Bridge in Scotland. [ It had been lost in his garden ].

 
At 18 June 2007 at 13:43, Blogger Fence said...

If only you'd had the foresight to attach a tracking device to your keys all this heartache could have been avoided ;)

Two of my brothers regularly lose their keys. Sometimes they turn up again, more often they don't. We must be keeping the locksmith in business.

 
At 18 June 2007 at 17:48, Blogger -Ann said...

Dave - I can hear you saying that.

Laurie - It's okay - you're an editor. I would expect nothing less and I heard the quote in a writing class, so the possibility of misattribution is high.

Claire - I love the term 'key blackouts.' I have door locking blackouts and oven-turning-off blackouts, both of which annoy Peter no end.

David - Good idea. I was thinking of trying to track down one of the road bowling fellas and asking them to help me out.

Fence - Indeed. Funny thing, someone had just told me about those nifty key locaters on Friday.

 
At 19 June 2007 at 13:40, Blogger stwidgie said...

Mmm, oven-turning-off blackouts. For me it seems to be the stove, which is distinctly unsafe ever since we got a high-powered faux-professional model with many BTUs at its disposal. The first day, I put the kettle on, and then went upstairs and forgot it. This melted the plastic whistle right off the kettle, which is sad because it played three notes and sounded like a train whistle and I really loved that. I try to remember my promise not to leave the kitchen (I privately extend this to the entire ground floor) when the stove is on, but even so I just forget sometimes.

Hope you find your keys!

 
At 20 June 2007 at 03:07, Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

I can so, so relate to this. Always losing the keys, always telling myself to hang them on the hook, stick them in the deep pocket. All these instructions get completely disregarded when the phone rings, the shopping falls, etc. The other day I was demented, couldn't find them anywhere and finally looked in a basket of wool on the coffee table and they were at the bottom of it. I have no recollection of throwing them into that particular abyss!!!
Good luck on your hunt...

 
At 21 June 2007 at 18:13, Blogger -Ann said...

St. W- Oh my - I don't think I could live with a stove like that. We have a fireplace in the house we're renting and we've never used it because I am a teensy bit afraid of fires. The key search does not go well, but the bullocks are in the field, munching on the grass, so hopefully they will uncover my keys.

WWW - The funny thing is that I hadn't been having a problem with misplacing the keys, until this happened. And I class this as completely losing them - I didn't just forget where I put them. Now, I've had about 3 episodes of not being able to find my new keys. Argh. I may have given myself a key complex.

 

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