The Art of Losing

The number of times I’ve lost between the sofa cushions my keys, the tv remote, a hair tie, coins, marbles…

A while back I was looking for my cell phone in every nook and cranny of my home when Elizabeth Bishop’s poem from the book “Rare and Commonplace Flowers” popped into my mind...and surprisingly I could hear my grandmother speaking to me.

I was stopped in my tracks. The combination between the poet and my grandmother stirred a powerful sense of deja vu. I was transported back to the sofa in my grandmothers Barcelona home, during which she would often recite these lines as she looked around for my toys:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

That’s why everything my eyes were seeing on the pages of my new nook seemed so familiar! My blood had already been there. My grandmother was a Bishop fan!

With a spring in my step I searched for the box filled books I rescued from her library many years ago. Her most prized literature was kept in that box and I was sure I’d find Bishop in there.


I opened the box and made my way through the authors: Woolf, Dickens, Garcia Marquez… as I touched the spine of each book, images of my grandmother reading them hit me like a wave crashing on the beach. It was between those memories and the smell of old books that I found it. Bishop’s Geography III. There it was, waiting for me.

I took the book and gently traced the cover with my fingers. It was as if that globe and astrolabe were trying to tell me something. Slowly I opened the cover and flipped through its pages until I found it. One Art. I inhaled and read it aloud; my grandmother more present than ever. I smiled and hugged the book tight.


It was only when I opened my eyes again that I realised something had fallen from inside the pages. Two things lay on the ground and as soon as I saw them I knew I was facing something important.


I picked them up with utmost care, fearing they could break. A single page, crumpled up and worn away by the effects of time, was joined by a small instant photo of a bridge overpassing some rolling hills. Under the image, in the unmistakeable handwriting of my grandmother, was written: “Brazil, 1951”. Could it be…?


As if I were being puppeted by an invisible line, attracted by the most potent of magnets, I understood where the universe was imploring me to travel. Petropolis was waiting for me.