The piece I was writing needed a visual example, and I thought to myself that this ink drawing I made back in graduate school would be perfect. It was the sketch for an intaglio I never made. I left my computer and went down in the basement to grab the pad so I could scan it. But the pad wasn’t there.
I started removing the most likely boxes and opening them, but while I yielded a lot of other sketch pads, I couldn’t find the one from graduate school. I started amassing all my art supplies and drawings and prints into one enormous pile, returning to it over and over again to flip through every single page of the pads in case I had forgotten that the sketch was buried somewhere in the middle of a book.
I got out a ladder so I could methodically go through the boxes, dozens and dozens of them. I left a mess behind in my wake, unable to lift the boxes back up to their shelves once I got them down. And then I left the basement and moved upstairs, taking apart drawers, going through file cabinets clearly too small to hold the sketch pad, and even checking the pantry that I just cleaned a few days earlier.
The longer I couldn’t find it, the more distraught I became. I wasted my entire work day looking for this drawing, and in the meantime, more work had come in. But I couldn’t think to do the work because I was obsessing over the location of the sketch pad.
When Josh came home, we went through the storage room together while the twins unhelpfully danced in the basement. The ChickieNob promised me that it was in the storage room. “You showed it to me a few years ago, and then you put it back inside a box.” Yes! Yes, it was inside the storage room. It was confirmation; a clue.
Josh patiently brought down the boxes and put them back up, sometimes doing it a second or third time to give me peace of mind. I took a break for a video meeting, the whole time my brain working through other places I hadn’t looked yet, and then we returned to the storage room again to check the very same boxes. By 11 o’clock, I had to concede that the sketch pad wasn’t there.
My plan was to return to looking in the storage room the moment Josh left for work the next day.
I woke up that morning and went down to do yoga. My first thought when I walked into the living room was that I should clean Truman’s cage. I turned on the light and thought that it didn’t look that dirty, but sure, I’d do it that evening after I had been to pick up more bedding. I jotted it down on my to-do list and turned on my yoga app.
After I finished the routine, I heard the shower go on upstairs. Josh was getting ready for work, and it was going to be 15 minutes before I could get my day started. Annoyed, I debated returning to the storage room to fill the time, but then turned around and looked at Truman’s cage. I might as well clean it now rather than wait for later.
I scrubbed it down, still obsessing about the lost sketch pad. Where could I have packed it away?
We keep his bedding underneath the table holding his cage. As I opened it, my brain thought, “reach to the left.” So I reached to the left, and my hand connected with a tight stack of papers atop a box that had been left underneath. My sketch pad.
I have no clue why my sketch pad was underneath Truman’s cage. I have no clue how long it had been there. I have no memory of placing it in such a bizarre location. It was one of the only places I didn’t check the day before because… well… you don’t expect to see a sketch pad amongst guinea pig supplies.
Opening that book, seeing the ink drawing, made me internally unravel. It was such an intense flood of relief; like I had finally gotten a key to fit in a lock and now I could re-enter a space. I could work again; thoughts of the sketch pad were finally released from my brain.
I know it’s a form of control. It’s a constant need to have a neatly ordered world because it’s the one thing I can command when the rest of life feels so tenuous, so beyond reach. Knowing where things are, having everything in a place, is about neatness. About creating calm when things feel tumultuous.
Let’s just say that I completely understand Bert in a world of Ernies.