Friday, January 14, 2005

Lost and Found

Lately, I've had Found magazine on the brain. It started with M's find of an excellent example of school note passing on the street a couple weeks ago. Written on notebook paper, it features statements such as "I ate way to [sic] much over Thanksgiving," with a comment written diagonally in another hand "I know you did," answered with "shut up!" A veritable relic in the current age of text messaging, the only things this note was missing were evaluations of boys and doodles depicting favourite musical celebrities. It almost made me want to grab it and scrawl "I hate Math!!!" and render an inexpert version of the Def Leppard logo ("Rockz-4-ever!!!").

Yesterday, I stumbled upon my own find. Walking through the low-income housing development between two buildings of my office, I discovered a slightly damp and dirty - but not too dirty - cheap, fuzzy Christmas stocking. Forlornly crumpled in the middle of the walkway, its bright colours still stood out, and the evidence of glitter and glue decoration caused me to stop and pick it up. On the top, white, furry portion, globs and smears of green glitter described a name of sorts, now completely unreadable, and on the red area, patches of dried glue and silver sparkles depicted the phrase "I [heart] YOU" in a childish muddle. "This is one of the most pathetic things I've ever seen," I remarked to my co-worker, who was staring at me in horror for picking up such a thing from the street. "I think I have to send it into Found magazine." What tugged at my heart and kept puzzling me were the obvious care put into the stocking - such a homey, Christmas-glow inducing object in itself - and the possible reasons for its abandonment. Was just dropped and lost, taken by bullies... or maybe, saddest of all, the person who made it just didn't love the receiver any more? The world will never know.

Finally, today, I found the mother lode. Hunching under my $9.95-special umbrella in the miserable January wind and rain, I had to pause at a street island as the lights changed. The island, a familiar one to me near my work, normally sports some kind of pleasant landscaping, along with plaques commemorating the donors who maintain it - in this case, Gracious Home, Bed, Bath & Beyond and the local headquarters of the Mormon church. This morning, however, the middle of the island was bare, covered only with flat, brown mud, and a most extraordinary creature. There, amidst the dried remains of holiday flowers, was a lumpy, brown-and-black, papier-mâché beaver. At least, I think it was a beaver. It could have been a road-killed dog, or any other type of brownish mammal, with a silver tongue sticking out, a mis-shapen head, and black paint slits for eyes that made it look asleep or dead. The giveaway, however, was the flat, black, oversized tail that sprawled behind it, giving me the impression of a beaver. But what was it doing there? And who had made it? Was it supposed to be there, as some kind of display, or was it left there by accident or as a throw-away, after it had served its purpose as a school art piece or science project? Again, the world will never know.

I had half a mind to pick it up, but its soaked state, along with the facts that it was half as long as me and could have been there on purpose, decided me against it. But how can I ever share it with anyone if I can't capture it and show it to others? At least if I had a digital camera with me I could take a picture of it, so that someone else might share in my pondering its origin and purpose - assuming anyone but me cared. But, as it is, I had none with me, and I suspect, as is often the case with such discoveries, it will probably disappear before I get back to where it was again.

That's why I love Found magazine. It shows one glimpses of the mysterious flotsam we leave behind, and gives one tantalizing scraps of other lives to mull over, so the curiosity and imagination, as well as the sense of all individuals sharing the same humanity, are piqued. Not to mention, it shows me that at least some other freaks out there are as intrigued by this sort of thing as I am. You won't see my lumpy beaver in the magazine (and yes, I love how dirty that sounds), but you may find other items that make you think and feel connected to the emotional lives of other people you will never know. Check it out.

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