I began the final descent of my journey home to the Midwest last night. A good-natured taxi driver dropped me off at the condo of some friends in Northern Michigan, after picking me up from the airport to which I was rerouted from Chicago.
It has been 24 hours since my arrival here. My luggage is lost.
I came here for a retreat of almost three weeks. My plan was to read and write and rest. To be renewed. After weeks of packing and rationalizing and endless goodbyes, I took just two smallish carry-on bags on the plane. Everything else I thought I might possibly want or need I threw into two large checked bags. I hadn’t had an airline lose my luggage since 1982, when I went skiing in Aspen and ended up with the airlines buying me all new skis and gorgeous ski clothes — and then finding my luggage weeks later. So it honestly didn’t cross my mind that my luggage might not make it.
That’s why I put the heaviest things in the two bags I didn’t have to carry far — the two that are now lost. In one of those is my big floppy preaching bible with notes written all over the margins and the end sheets. It is as vital to my writing as paper.
What DID make it here with me is an odd assortment of critical items, incomplete pairs, and niff-naw I really don’t need. I have colored pencils and markers and 4 pencil sharpeners (two still in the package). Thank you notes (the addresses are in the luggage lost). An ironic pin from the Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans that says: All Anew.
I have a winter nightgown; two pairs of socks I bought at the airport; my Surface Pro and my phone. My blush but not my mascara. The base of my electric toothbrush — the toothbrush is in luggage lost.
I have one shirt and the sleeveless cotton dress I wore on the plane and black sandals that took me so many places I’d like to forget that I almost threw them out two days ago. I have my glasses and my sunglasses and a soft flannel eye cover I don’t wear but like because it matches my flannel pajama pants — which are in luggage lost.
I have a book from the Alban Institute: New Beginnings (that I don’t remember packing), and a homemade paper booklet of poems by Natasha T. Miller entitled Now.
Earlier today, a friend joked with me that luggage-lost takes my journey toward minimalism to a new level. “You’re well-into having everything fit in a backpack now,” she said. Which is kinda true except that my real backpack is in luggage lost.
I get a text on my phone that we have an offer on the condo. They will pay cash. Another string that tethered me to the last three years comes loose.
I have pages of Maya Angelou stamps I brought for my thank you notes, so as I assess what I DO have, I see, over and over again, Maya smiling at me next to her quote: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”
I have two funny pads of notes that I brought to insert in my thank you notes to make people smile: One pad is entitled “You Got This.” I have my brand new planner, a gift from my friend Topaz, complete with the note she put inside it that reminds me: 2016 needs a do-over.
I listen to the rain, and check my messages for word of luggage lost and am told “we are still looking for your bags and will contact you when they are found.” I think about people in Louisiana once again losing everything. I wonder at their courage.
Maybe the reason I came here is different than what I thought it would be. Maybe the reading and writing and resting will be happening without my usual support system: my favorite jeans, my warm UGG Slippers, my stacks of notes and books. Maybe the Do-Over really does start now.
I decide to escape into reading while I listen to the clock and wonder if in fact my luggage is gone for good. The book on my Kindle is called: Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence. It is about a young man, who now, at 38, teaches yoga, despite the fact that he is paralyzed from the waist down and has been since age 13. I downloaded it because of the reviews. I downloaded it because I’m recommitting to yoga as part of my daily process. I downloaded it because it is a memoir, and I intended to use this time to draft mine.
I just had no idea I was going to do it with so little to hold onto.