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I can’t find my running hat right now. It’s been a few days and I’ve looked everywhere I can think of. I ran without it today and I missed it the whole time.

I know I could go buy another one. They aren’t pricey and I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford another. But that’s the easy solution to what must be much more complicated and ultimately, much more rewarding.

One fall, I lost an earring. I knew I had it on when I walked into the restaurant I waitressed at. I remembered pulling at it when I yanked my hair into a ponytail at the start of my shift. It was the very early ‘90s and I loved my gold Claddagh mini-hoop earrings. They were really the only jewelry I owned besides a mostly-kinked gold chain that also sported a Claddagh. It was my time of Irish themed gold and I thought those earrings glorious.

So, when I discovered that the hoop no longer clung to my ear, I launched an exhaustive search. I could not afford to replace it, and even if I could, no one would sell me one earring. Finding an exact match would not be easy either. The only solution was to find that golden treasure. I looked in the ice maker. I swept the floor repeatedly. I stalked the kitchen coolers and slunk under tables. Nowhere.

I checked in the parking lot in the dark, following only the illumination of street lights, vainly hoping for a glint. I was certain I was wearing them inside, but I was determined to look everywhere I’d stepped. The small parking lot yielded no find. I went home, sullen.

After a few days and a few more searches, I gave up. It was gone, kissed up to the gods, as I’d heard said. I abandoned the other earring lest I imitate a pirate. Search called off.

For months, I returned to that restaurant after teaching all day, and waited tables. It got colder, it snowed. The restaurant was busier in the winter and I quite easily could have saved to replace those earrings. But I never did.

One March afternoon I pulled into the parking lot a few minutes later than normal. The  afternoon light that time of year was still murky and the chill had me moving quickly from my car. As I jumped out, I stepped on some just-reforming ice and slid a little. I didn’t fall, but the unsteadiness forced me to splay awkwardly. I struggled to straighten and I looked at my feet, willing my eyes to right them. To the left of my left foot, my earring sat. I stooped to grab it quickly, despite my hard-won balance just restored. The motion mimicked my childhood grabs at the ocean floor when I spotted a possible shell or sand dollar that an incoming wave would crash on and obscure. I twisted it in my fingers. It was completely intact and had suffered only a dent on one side, right in the heart part of the Claddagh symbol. My feeling of triumph was transcendent.

So now, some 25 years later, I will not replace my hat. I know it will turn up. I also lost my mother’s lab work slip two weeks ago. Her doctor was kind enough to call in the orders. Just moments ago, I found the slip. It was too late for her appointment, but found nonetheless, reinforcing that nothing is ever truly lost. Items don’t just dissipate because they are hidden from our view.

Things are happening whether we witness them or not. People are born and live and die and we will never encounter them. Things exist and occur and we are unable to see them, even though we may literally be walking right past them every day. We see what must wish to see and we find our own truths, based on how thoroughly we search. Too often, we only look deep enough to prove what we hope to prove. We believe we already looked there, so revisiting wastes our time.

I’ve also been looking for my spare car key for nearly a year now. I fully believe I will slip on a coat and find it deep in a pocket. It may have fallen behind the couch. It may well be in plain view, overlooked in the blandness surroundings get after constant visual exposure. My life’s clutter may be a Rorschach test, needing a new perspective to see a different truth. My key may suddenly be found where I was certain I’d already looked.

My losses and my long-delayed finds prove that nothing is ever truly lost. Whether an earring, a car key or empathy for others, it can be rediscovered. Things lost can be found. They are wherever we left them.  The strenuousness of the search is up to us.  I fully intend to be wearing my hat the next time I go out running. You may drive past me and you may not even see me. But if you do, I’m the one in the light blue hat. Mostly likely, I’ll be looking around. I don’t want to miss anything.

(I  once had a tape holder, loaded with a roll of tape, on the roof of my car for 6 months, right through the winter of 2015. It slid down onto my windshield unexpectedly and quite horrifyingly in commuter traffic after I braked quickly to avoid hitting a car whose driver had cut me off. I didn’t even know it was missing. But there it was--found.)