Lost & found


Someone forgot the milk

I don’t know what it is that compels me to reach for my camera whenever I see a lost or forgotten object, like this gallon of milk someone left behind in their grocery cart at the Auburndale Shaw’s this afternoon. There’s something lonesome and forlorn about castoff things. I always wonder about the story behind these objects, and I feel sad for the people who left them behind. Is someone upset now that they’re home and find themselves with a full refrigerator of food, but no milk? Is some harried parent making an emergency trip back to the store right now because the kids will need milk with their Saturday morning cartoons-and-cereal tomorrow?

Angry Pig

I guess I feel a kind of sympathy for lost objects and the unseen folks who might be looking for them: who among us, after all, hasn’t lost something, and who among us hasn’t, at some point, felt lost? Often the lost objects I find (and compulsively photograph) are prominently displayed on fences, benches, or other eye-level perches: someone took the time not only to retrieve this lost thing but to place it somewhere that it might be found. The sight of such kindness from one stranger to another always cheers me: it seems inherently hopeful to think that a frantic searcher might find a castoff thing, all because of the kindness of an anonymous stranger.

Castoff glasses

One day last week while J and I were in New York, a woman dropped her sweater as she bustled down a busy Chelsea sidewalk, and no sooner had the sweater landed but a handful of strangers each lunged forward, separately, to retrieve the garment and alert the woman: “Ma’am!” “Miss!” “Hey, lady!” J noted how this instantaneous rush to help an anonymous passerby belies everything you hear about brusque New Yorkers. Although city-dwellers might walk fast and avoid eye-contact, there still lies within us an instinctive urge to reach out, retrieve, and reunite lost objects with their owners. Perhaps we all know, intrinsically, the ache of lonesomeness, and this compels us to reunite lost objects and lost souls whenever we can.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Lonesome.

Collared

I’d love to know the story behind the large canine pinch collar someone has put around a tree in the vicinity of Cold Spring Park. Are Newton trees so rambunctious, they need prong-collar correction? Or did some dog, on his way to Cold Spring’s newly debuted off-leash area, throw off the choke of oppression before he got there?

Whatever the explanation, this much I’m guessing: this tree’s bark is probably worse than its bite.

Gloves

If you happened to misplace a pair of fuzzy-cuffed black gloves while in Newton sometime this weekend, as of this morning they were waiting for you at the Village Bank ATM in Waban Square.

Tree shadow on street

I can easily imagine misplacing my gloves while fumbling with cash, keys, and wallet at an outdoor ATM on a frigid weekend…but I can’t imagine going far without them. In only a matter of minutes, I think, my fingers would loudly let me know that I’d left something important behind. But then again, maybe the unfortunate owner of these lost gloves owns several pair. Maybe by the time she got back to her car, she grabbed the second pair she keeps there, or the third pair she keeps in her coat, or a fourth pair she keeps in her purse. Or maybe in the glove-rich town of Newton, she’s found that matched pairs grow on trees.

I’m serious about my multiple-pair theory because I do own about a half-dozen (at least) pairs of gloves, and I do parse them out so I’m almost never without a pair close at hand (pun intended). Over the years, I’ve learned to stock up on new gloves in the spring, when stores sell them at deep discount, then I stick them in the pockets of every coat I own. I stick the rest in a ragtag bag of winter wear I keep stashed in the closet over the summer, then right about now I transfer that bag to my car in case I ever find myself stranded and in need of an extra hat, scarf, or mismatched pair of mittens. You never know. When it comes to gloves and other cold-weather wear, I definitely subscribe to my mother’s philosophy that it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

In case of emergency, pray

This is, I think, my best found object yet: a well-worn Rosary hanging from a fire alarm. In case of emergency, pray!

Got glasses?

Here’s the latest in my ongoing series of lost and found objects: this time, a pair glasses dropped and then recovered along Beacon Street. Unless, of course, the fences have eyes just as the walls have ears.

Even trees get thirsty sometimes

With all the spring sun we’ve been getting in New England these days, even the trees are thirsty, sneaking surreptitious sips of high fructose corn syrup in the form of McDonald’s sodas. Either that, or “leaf litter” isn’t the only kind of dry detritus you can find in the woods in springtime.

Forsythias

Last week in Keene, we had our first fire warning of the season: a reminder that low humidity and dry leaf litter make for dangerously flammable forests. This weekend in Waban, the “fire” outside is metaphoric, with forsythia blooming like a yellow-hot blaze in suburban yards and gardens.

Although I mentioned Earth Day earlier this week, yesterday I was remiss in remembering Arbor Day. Steve was similarly remiss, mentioning today that he’d forgotten both Earth and Arbor Days, presumably because he was “not watching the calendar closely enough!” For good or ill, neither Earth nor Arbor Day is on my calendar, but I’d like to think that doesn’t matter: wouldn’t it better for us (and the health of the planet) if we spent less time watching our calendars and more time listening to trees?

In New England at least, the trees right now will tell you it’s spring, their “words” being unfolding leaves, blooming flowers, and (in the case of pines) a yellow dusting of pollen. Before he died, Thoreau had intended to construct a local “Kalendar” that, according to Bradley Dean, would provide a biological time-line of the natural year, with the blooming and breeding of plant and animal species serving as temporal markers:

Apparently he intended to write a comprehensive history of the natural phenomena that took place in his hometown each year. Although he planned to base his natural history of Concord upon field observations recorded in his journal over a period of several years, he would synthesize those observations so that he could construct a single “archetypal” year, a technique he had used to wonderful effect in Walden.

Maple blossoms

In my neck of the woods, I’ve learned, trout lilies bloom at the end of April, and forsythias flame not long after. I don’t need a calendar to remind me of that fact, just my blog (the 21st-century, high-tech equivalent of Thoreau’s journal) and photo archives. Next week, I’m hoping the wake-robin (Trillium erectum, also known as purple or red trillium) will be blooming since I have an unofficial ritual of blogging them on May 1st, whether at Goose Pond or Beech Hill. After May 1st, I’ve learned from years of New Hampshire living, the black flies will emerge, and my days in the woods around Keene will be numbered, at least until blood-sucking insects die off.

It might be true that the trees of the greater Boston area are fond of McDonald’s soda, but I’d prefer that instead of “loving it,” they simply leaf it. Steve rightfully notes that every day should be both Earth and Arbor day, for “When should we not be thinking about trees, about the health of the planet?” Between you and me, I think the trees in New England and elsewhere would be healthier if they just said no to soda.

This post is a roundabout excuse to mention two tree-related things. First, the Nature Conservancy is spearheading an effort called Plant a Billion Trees which is attempting to re-forest a richly bio-diverse (and unfortunately endangered) area in Brazil. If you, like Steve, can’t plant a tree in your urban backyard, you might consider donating to the cause of “One dollar – One tree – One planet.”

Rooted

Second, don’t forget to submit your tree-related links and pictures to next month’s Festival of the Trees. You can send permalinks to mike (at) 10000birds (dot) com, submit them via the Contact page at 10,000 Bird’s, or use the Festival’s online submission form. The deadline is April 29, so get moving!

Lost, and free!

Today’s Photo Friday theme, Found Objects, has my name written all over it. Not only have I previously blogged found objects like a child’s stuffed octopus, a rain-soaked pair of glasses, and a dirty pacifier, I have an entire blog category devoted to the subject. In a world where it’s so incredibly easy to get lost, it gives me a sense of hope to think that sometimes, precious things like stuffed toys, blankets, and binkies are found.

Money grows on trees?

It seems similarly optimistic to think that someone stumbling upon a wallet in the woods would simply brace it on a branch, allowing its rightful owner to re-trace steps to re-claim it. Have I any way of knowing whether the various keys, watches, and cell phones (!!!) I’ve found in the woods over the years have ever found their way back to their rightful homes? No. But still, I hold out hope that somewhere and someday, possessors and possessions will be reunited, this wallet staying in precisely the same spot on a heavily traveled trail for several days before someone, rightful owner or otherwise, claimed it. Only a philosopher will dare ponder whether this wallet was finally found or merely lost again.

Matching pair

There’s something sad about a single lost glove bereft of both home and mate…but a matched but nevertheless lost pair is a real rarity. If you’re lost with a companion, are you truly lost? Or is a matched pair of gloves merely wandering, seeking adventure apart from any interfering appendage?

Found pacifier

Lost kitten

But if found objects like cast-off pacifiers give me hope, posters advertising the lost tug at my heart, pointing as they do to the way loved ones sometimes disappear and ultimately pass. It’s one thing to believe (on Good Friday of all days) in the God of Lost Things…but who but the most optimistic holds out hope for a kitten lost right before a massive snowfall? Whether one lost kitten makes it through another storm, shouldn’t we all find comfort knowing that someone, somewhere, believes, hopes, and prays she can?

Still lost

Love is akin to hope, so those who love truly hope deeply as well. The posters J and I spotted earlier this month for “missing Max” looked brand new, but Max hasn’t been seen since August. Is an entire season or more too long to hold out hope for a returned friend? At what point do you stop putting up posters or take down the weathered ones that remain, reminders that the lost aren’t always found? Or does a faithful friend ever stop looking, wondering, and hoping, believing in his heart of hearts that Max is out there somewhere, and okay?

If faith were enough to bring lost cats and kittens home, return wallets to their rightful owners, reconcile mis-matched mittens, and return toys, blankets, and binkies to the little ones who love them, we’d have nothing in the way of Lost and Found in this world. Instead, we live in a messy and dangerous place where we sometimes lose, forget, or misplace the things we value the most, and people who don’t know or care about the true value of our sentimental things find them as if by mistake, not knowing the love, hope, and disappointment they hold. These aren’t just lost animals and objects, you see: they’re forlorn wanderers looking for home.

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