They made a garden and they made a house and they made a fire and then they made dinner.
Then they slept.
While they slept she dreamed of fishes that swam and floated on the air just outside the thoughts in people's heads, fishes that slowly expanded and contracted, fishes that changed from one deep and shimmering hue to another. Red, blue, green. And then of a dress, and herself in the dress, a dress stiff and layered, jewel toned, that slid from color to color as with the flow of her thoughts.
He dreamed of a mountain that fell and kept him from coming to her when the snakes threatened. Then in his dream he walked with her in deep surf and in air that turned to gold as the sun came up over the ocean. He saw the raindrops far, far above their heads falling perfect and whole, golden pearls, flashing past him and into the ocean.
They tended their garden, they set their house in order. They sat by the fire after dinner and when it was autumn she said, we've lost something, and he agreed. He said, I believe you are right. They slept close together and did not dream and when morning came they began to search. Nothing is easy to find but lost things are difficult, and a thing that is lost even to memory and naming is most difficult of any thing to find. Needles and haystacks are named and can be measured; they are weighable, countable, stackable and sewable. A lost thing, on the other hand, might as well be underhand and overland for all the two of them could do to find it. The sun went right down before they had found more than a mere few dozen of lost things and he took her hand in the cool and dusty blue of evening, where they stood tight together under stars no more than a hundred or two of which had names any one knew and he said to her, softly and gently, we will look tomorrow. We will look until we find it. Yes, she said sadly, yes, we won't have a choice. He knew it, he knew the choices they would not have, and he carried her hand soberly in his all the way back to their garden and their fire. Between them they brought all the found things that were no longer lost. Some of the things made nice stacks in the dark garden and some of them needed to go into baskets in the shadowy house and a few of them were eaten for dinner by the fire. Six of them ran away to the neighbor's tool shed.
Winter came and they moved the fire inside their house. It looked as though, if you could peel back the snow out on the garden, under it there would be only bumps of dirt and plant mistakes, but it was really their summer garden sleeping under the snow. The house sang in the cold on the outside and hummed in the heat on the inside. The house was always reaching out to hug them when they came back from a day of searching. We'll know it, he said to her while he sorted into piles the fifty found things of that day, we'll know it when we find it. We'll know then that it's found. Yes, she agreed, we will. We won't have a choice, and she threw away some lost things for which no name could ever be found and made room on the bookshelves for a few others, put two of them into her hair and fed a handful to the cat. Which cat was one thing they had found, but which cat told everyone that it, the cat, had found them. They could not have found me, the cat told people, unless I had in the first place been lost. The evidence that I was never lost is that they know my name; they call me to dinner and I come. Lost things have not known names. This was what the cat told people. The cat was one of the found things that had gone into a basket.
She dreamed of a fair and of dancing with him while birds sat in his shoulders and reminded her of things she had left undone and he said, never listen to birds that talk but don't dance. So they walked away from the dance and were lost until an old man came and showed them the way, grumbling and grumbling.
He dreamed of a little woman who sat down under their bed and told him terrible things until she came and dropped an iron on the little woman. Then he dreamed that she held him while he cried from the terrible things the little woman had said, and while she held him she told him not to eat the woman's bread, and that if he did that, he would forget all about her. And he did.
They made an early spring bonfire with last year's dead growth and sat close to it, drinking hot chocolate in the thin spring sunshine. She looked deep into the coals and said, thoughtfully as she drank some hot chocolate, We maybe need to do this in the house. He spilled some chocolate on his shoes. Do this? he asked, in the house? Make a bonfire? She looked toward him from far away, her eyes focusing beyond him, her hands wrapped tightly around the hot cup. Prune, she said, inside the house. Clear. Cut back. Oh! he said, right! Of course. Prune. Trim inside the house. Yes, I see. So they did; the next day they pared back the winter's growth of found things til only the ones that answered to their names were left and then every year after that, when they had finished outside the house, they cut back inside the house. They threw the parings out the windows and doors and there, in the newly shorn and ship shape garden, would be a houseful of about-to-be-lost-again things. Sometimes they donated those things to the Orphans of Brave Men Lost at Sea Fund, and sometimes they gave the things to the gypsies if the gypsies wandered by in the early spring. Gypsies travel light and they never knew why the gypsies wanted the pile of trimmings, but that was the gypsies' problem. Once or twice they gave the pile away as Christmas gifts. People were so moved at the thoughtfulness of those presents. Sometimes they had a garden sale, but the best by far was when, if that winter's takings had run mostly to wood and other combustibles, they just burned the whole lot. With those fires they had to roast marshmallows on sticks like, ten feet long. That was the most fun by far but it felt so irresponsible that it took them a couple of years to recover before they could do it again and enjoy it. After the huge fire was out, after they got home from donating or gifting or whatever that year had brought them, he always took her face in both his hands and told her, tenderly and because he meant and he knew it, We will find it, you know, we will find the lost thing. We will look until we find it. And she said sadly, I know we will. We have made the choice to look until we find it.
She dreamed of water and sand and dragons.
He dreamed of books with pages that flew away when he opened them.
Then they raked the leaves off of the lawn and jumped in the huge pile to see if there was anything lost in those leaves.
Hunting for a lost thing.
Searching for something lost.
Trimming the inside of the house.
Spitting watermelon seeds.
Drawing with sparklers.
Questing, together, for a lost thing.
Reading books in piles of leaves.
Dressing as famous witches.
Looking for a thing that is lost.
Bringing in firewood.
Pruning the inside of their house.
Eating by candlelight.
Going to find a lost thin. Or two.
One day he caught her staring out over his head into a sky filled with so many stars that it didn't even matter that they only knew the names of one or two hundred or so. What is it? he asked her, what do you see?
I was wrong, I think, she said, I think I was very wrong.
Oh, lover, he said, wrong about what? She turned to look full at him, and her eyes were filled with tears.
Nothing was ever lost, she said, we had lost nothing. I was so, so wrong. I'm sorry.
Oh, baby, he said helplessly, no, how could you have been wrong? What do you mean saying nothing was ever lost? Think, look, just look at all the things we have found. I told you, I told you all along we'd know when we found it, and we did. We knew every time.
The looking, with you, has been my greatest joy, she told him. I've loved every minute of this.
Yes, he said, we're pretty good at this, aren't we?
Perfect, she said, perfect. Come on, she said, let's go find something. I have a feeling it's lost.
They slept, they woke, they hunted together, and every spring, like clockwork, like yardwork, like tide and tree work, they cleaned out the nameless things in their house.
She dreamed of stores that opened into more stores and drawers filled with buttons and notes and jewelry and tiny dolls' arms and legs.
He dreamed of a city empty and glowing, waiting for him to arrive with piles of found things heaped in basket carriages drawn by cats.
She stood, in her dream, and waited for him, before she opened the Cabinet of Doors.
He hushed the cats, so he could hear her when she would finally come into the waiting city.