One night last week, the wee wife dropped one of her favorite earrings. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it? Oh, but it was. We scoured the floor, looked under the bed, peered into the black hole lurking under the dresser, all to no avail. Then, in an unusual moment of mutual clarity, we decided to call off the search until morning. Maybe, in the clearer (literally and figuratively) light of day, we’d have better luck…
It has been said that Archimedes was sitting in his bathtub when he “discovered” the equation that explained what has come to be called the Archimedes Principle: that the upward buoyant force exerted on an object when it is immersed in water is equal to the weight of the fluid that body displaces. “Eureka!”—I found it!!—Archimedes purportedly yelled after he jumped out of the tub and ran naked through the streets of ancient Syracuse, thrilled to have finally understood the underlying principle of the science that has come to be called fluid mechanics. However, important as Archimedes’ principle was and still is, it’s that wonderful word—Eureka!—that speaks to me centuries later. “I found it!” Everybody’s three favorite words!
Now back to the wee wife’s lost earring. In her iconography, St. Anthony of Padua is the poor guy who’s always working overtime. Anthony is the patron saint of lost objects so, the next morning, with his divine help, the wee wife and I tore the bedroom apart again. Moving the dresser presented its own set of problems, but we did it. We lifted the rug, went through all the detritus on the floor; still no lost earring. I could hear panic beginning to creep into the wee wife’s voice, so I did what I always do when things get dicey: I hightailed it to my study because sometimes, a little space can go a long way in our tiny home. A few quiet minutes passed and then, in that tone of voice that implies wonder, relief, joy, excitement, and triumph all in the same breath, I heard her cry out her own modern version of Eureka: “Found it!”
“Where was it?” I called from my sanctum sanctorum.
“In my tennis shoe. Must have hopped in after it hit the floor.” Hardly the genesis of the next new principle of physics, but good enough for me.
Finding something that was once feared lost produces its own special kind of euphoria. Order and calm are restored and the world can resume its regular breathing. Humanity can once again plough ahead: we can climb another rung on our endless evolutionary ladder, reach another plateau, make a new watermark. We can even defy the dark gods of lost objects while simultaneously celebrating an earring’s timely rescue from the underworld, or, in our case, the shoe world. For one brief shining moment, we’re back in control and even though that feeling might not last very long, at least for an instant or two, we glimpse perfection. Even the wet footprints of a naked philosopher running through the streets of ancient Syracuse shouting “Eureka!” seems a small price to pay for the blessed relief that comes rushing in when what was once lost, now is found. Amazing grace, indeed!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m quickly over my head in the deep end of the bathtub when it comes to any discussion of fluid mechanics. But I know relief and joy when I hear it. It’s a sound that always thrills me, especially when it comes from the sweet, wee throat of you-know-who.
“Found it!” she chirped. Thank you, St. Anthony!
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with a home in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com