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When Darkness Threatens To Snuff the Light

Oh my, has it been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this here blog! I will be honest, after the election – even though I predicted this orange storm was coming* – part of my brain broke (and my heart, if I’m being extra honest). While I know this sounds dramatic, it felt like the last straw for 2016. I felt defeated by tragedy beyond my control, no matter how proactive I was, no matter how many resources I threw at various situations, I still couldn’t stop the badness.

So when, upon arriving back in WV, unpacking from our xmas family visit, and realizing my notebook was nowhere to be found, I shouted, fists waving dramatically toward the sky, “THIS IS HOW YOU’RE GONNA PLAY ME 2016?! RIGHT UP TO THE VERY END!”

After ripping apart my suitcase and backpack, my partner’s suitcase and messenger bag, looking in any logical and illogical location in and around the house and car I could think of, after calling O'Hare, the Yeager Airport in Charleston, WV, and the airline, then filling out the lost and found forms online for each of those locations, I tweeted sadly at the airline pleading that they find and return my lost notebook. They responded with “We appreciate your patience.” *cough-bullshit-cough*

Now, some people would feel briefly bummed and move on, but I’ve been writing poetry, notes for classes, personal musings, rants and raves, research stats, and love letters into this journal for almost a year. Not only that, but it is a colorful, hardbound Marvel characters journal that was a xmas gift from my lovely sister. I had lost a gift, but more than that, intellectual property that I would never ever ever be able to replicate. It felt like a piece of my brain (nary I say it, a piece of my soul) had been misplaced.

Just as I was losing my last sliver of faith in life and the human race, I got an email with this subject line: “journal Marvel.” It is not from the airline nor an airport. It reads:

Hi Sarah, Am a Flight Attendant w/United Express, I found your journal in a closet on the plane which meant they didn’t have any intentions of turning it in, so I took up on myself to find you. Am not on F/B, sometimes I barely look in my emails, . . . but my daughter in law was so helpful . . . tracking you down.

I couldn’t believe it! Not only did the stupid, apathetic, terrible airline not bother to tell me no one put it in the lost and found, but someone was going to keep it! Why?! I can’t imagine that loopy chicken scrawl between the colorful hardbound cover could be significant to anyone but me. But there you have it, someone was going to take it home and keep my rightful property as their own.

If the tables were turned, and I found someone else’s journal, I’d like to think that I would do what my journal angel did for me (I'm choosing not to use their name because I didn’t ask for permission and I don’t want to get anyone in trouble accidentally), but they took it a step further.

I found you which [makes me] so Happy, I will mail it to you don’t worry about the cost of the postage, It just makes me feel good inside that I was able to find you and return it to you,

And it gets better!

I [will] say I read just a little of it just to be able to find a clue about how I would find you, I really felt bad because I felt I was invading someone else privacy.

Who is this amazing person! Not only did they find my journal, save it from its unknown fate, but they don’t want to be reimbursed for the cost of return AND apologized for reading part of it! I am, admittedly, nosy as shit and would probably have read all of it, or a lot of it, and I probably would not have confessed that. I would just secretly have tried to know that person in the voyeuristic way I try to know my neighbors -- by ducking out of sight when they are in their yards. Scratch and I watch them through the slates in the dilapidated, rotting wood fence, because I want to know who they are, but am also sometimes terrified of getting caught in an awkward conversation I don’t know how to end. This person though, this magical flight attendant, is a bona fide, golden-winged, polyester-clad angel! (Is it just me or does it look like those uniforms don’t breathe well)

I responded with gushing appreciation and asked for a return address so I could send the cost of the shipping; seriously, that’s the least I could do. Two days later, I get an email apologizing for not getting it in the mail faster, explaining how busy work had been (as if I deserved any kind of explanation – which I totally didn’t). Four days after that email, there in the broken metal mailbox hanging on the side of our front door was an envelope with my angel’s name on the return address.

I tore open the orange padded shipping envelope and there inside was my beautiful, slightly beat up, Marvel characters journal. All the random papers that had been inside (pieces of envelopes I’d written on, a printed poem I kept from a writing workshop the previous month, etc.) were all still there. And there was a note.

I am also glad that I left my boarding pass in there!

Then, on the other side of the note, was this:

I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when I realized I’d lost the journal; I cried when I got the email from the angel, and I cried one more time upon holding the journal in my arms once again. It’s possible I even held it at arms’ length, spinning in circles like a terrible romantic reunion. Or I might not have done something so silly. I mean, who does that in real life? That’s dumb, right? The journal and I actually just fist-bumped in a casual show of gladness to see one another. That’s definitely what really happened.

The beloved journall

In the interim, life has been busy with travel and deadlines and grading and hosting literary events, and being dog-sick, and all the while I’ve been trying to sit down to write this post. I think about this angel frequently as I carry the journal in my backpack every day and write in it whenever I can. It’s about three-fifths full, and I will treasure and utilize every last inch of lined paper and margins.

And even though I’ve been calling this person my angel, what’s been most wonderful about this experience has been that it wasn’t the act of a deity or divine intervention. It wasn’t some great hand of fate; this was the act of a compassionate, decent, warm-hearted, caring human being. This was a reminder to me of what the world could be like if people stopped being selfish and defensive and greedy and scared and isolationist. This busy person had no obligation to take time out of their day to do this kind act, but they did. They didn’t know who I was or how important the journal was to me, but that didn’t matter, because they just wanted to do something kind. I’ve been fortunate to have peppered throughout my life experiences like this where I am reminded what humanity can be. Whether by nature or circumstance (or a bit of both), I tend to be a relatively pessimistic, guarded person, slow to trust, quick to assume the worst. Experiences like this chip away at those barriers in my heart. I hope I can return this gift in some way, some day.

This is, at best, tangentially connected. I just like cats and turtles.

* Yes, this is a little bit of a “I told you the U.S. was full of hate, fear, ignorance, and bigotry” to certain people who shall remain nameless – and no I’m not proud of this snotty, I-told-you-so behavior, but, I can still sleep at night, so there.

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“Swearing was invented as a compromise between running away and fighting.” 

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“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” 
― Charles Bukowski

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