Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” Henry David Thoreau
This was a week of losing and finding things.
I lost a silver charm bracelet loaded with sentimental value. It felt like a metaphor for all kinds of other things I’d lost over the years – people I’d loved, people I’d trusted, my father, my longest term friend who died much too young of breast cancer, places I’d lived and left behind, a gold box-link bracelet that slipped from my wrist while I was riding my bicycle to university years ago, beloved books that ran away and never returned, the only piece of designer clothing I ever owned – a long flowing sheer black shirt – that mysteriously disappeared from a hotel room in Copenhagen, and memories of things that I can no longer fully retrieve.
I know that material things are just that – things. I know that while I was turning my house upside down, stripping beds and looking in teapots and gumboots and other unlikely places for my bracelet – that people were being diagnosed with cancer, or dying, or being born. That relationships were breaking down or being formed. That tragedy and horror and miracles would be unfolding somewhere else on the planet. That life goes on. That a charm bracelet is an insignificant little thing in the grand scheme. I know that.
But still, my mind turned over and over wondering when I’d last actually seen the bracelet on my wrist. I backtracked though the days that preceded – through all the places I’d been – trying to remember some detail that might be a clue. I chastised myself for my carelessness. I heard my father’s voice, reprimanding me, oscillating between anger and frustration and care.
I kept thinking about my father. In my memories he is almost always in the kitchen – wearing an air-force blue wool pullover, standing at the sink, looking out the window – eating a bowl of muesli. Or if not this memory – one of him carrying our huge ginger tabby cat around like a baby, telling it utterly ridiculous things – like Very Important Scientific Facts or reciting “the Owl and the Pussy Cat”. These things stand out for me. If I delve a little deeper there are a million other memories – but these are the immediate ones.
Then, the night before last, I woke in the dead of night, hot and sweaty, my throat sore, tears rolling down my face. I’d been dreaming about my friend, the one who died of breast cancer. I’d had a crystal clear memory of us – 40 years before she died. We were six years old and at Brownies. We were running hand-in-hand, full-tilt, round and round the church hall, screaming with joy, our long hair – hers auburn, mine blond – streaming behind us. Our Brown Owl was the first adult I’d ever met who seemed not to mind noise nor care what we did. So we ran and screamed with complete abandon. Week after week we did this. And it was one of the most joyful things I’d ever known.
This is why losing something is hard. Because it triggers the layers of memories of past losses.
But while I spent my week searching, I found things. I found memories that reminded me of great joys, I found missing socks, and on the floor of my car – an ancient hair barrette that I’d assumed was gone forever. Then, on Friday, at the closing ceremony for a First Nations event, I found a lovely, young teenage girl, who stood in the sunshine reciting a traditional blessing in her own language. And for those few moments while she spoke everything else ceased to exist. Later, standing together in the kitchen, I asked her what the blessing was about – “It’s about thankfulness – for the earth – for each other – all that kind of stuff,” she said, with a beautiful, carefree smile.
All that kind of stuff indeed. I felt as though, in her presence, I’d found a bit of my younger self. I wanted to interview her for a story. So she wrote out her name for me – and told me to look her up on Facebook. I did – and the first thing I found was the Henry David Thoreau quotation above.
This morning, just after I ate my muesli, standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window, lost in a week of reveries, I found my bracelet.
Here in memory of father – is my recipe for muesli. It’s insanely healthy, a lot less expensive than the packaged kind, and seriously addictive. I eat it with rice or almond milk and a swirl of honey or maple syrup. I think it is the best muesli ever. My dad would have loved it.
2 ½ cup large flake oats
1 cup rye flakes (I buy organic rye flakes at Tara, my local health food store. They’re surprisingly inexpensive and very healthy.)
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips – like large flakes (I also buy these at my local health food store – but you can use whatever kind of coconut you like. Some people like this toasted – but honestly – the whole point of this exercise is that it’s fast, easy, and RAW)
1 cup trail mix (or make your own – nuts, raisins, currants, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, etc.)
1 cup dried fruit – I like cranberries and dried sour cherries
¼ cup ground flax seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
Toss all the ingredients together and store in a glass jar. Voilà perfect homemade muesli!