The missing item wasn’t important – nothing critical or sentimental, just a simple household tool that I found useful. The important thing about it was that it was lost, and I thought I was losing my mind (or at least my memory) as I searched thoroughly for it, to no avail.

When I became responsible for my household plants after I started to live alone, I relearned something of which I was fairly sure: I’m not nearly as good at tending them as their former caregiver. I’m terrific with cut flowers, but house plants? Not so much, as I’m prone to over- or under-watering. (To be fair, how often and how much to water a plant is tricky, since yellowed leaves can mean either too much or too little moisture in the soil.) I had often seen a coworker use a moisture meter for the plants at Bethesda Workshops, and I decided to buy one for home. My plants have been grateful.

But when I recently intended to use it, the meter wasn’t sticking out of the watering can in the utility closet where it belongs. I clearly remembered inserting the gizmo – basically a thin metal, hollow cylinder with a small, round dial on the top – into the soil of a plant in the guest room. I also was sure I had removed it and laid it on the carpet before maneuvering the long neck of the watering can into the plant’s thick foliage. Presumably I would have properly stored the meter back in the utility closet when I finished watering that last plant. (Have you met me? I may be just a tiny bit OCD about such things.) Yet, it wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

The meter’s absence set off a two-week search as I looked everywhere, including dumping out both the trash and the recycling in case I had absentmindedly discarded the meter along with the paper towel I had been using to sop up watering spills. I returned multiple times to peer down at the plant itself, since I’ve always heard you’re most likely to find something in the last place you remember having it. No luck.

At some point it became a contest between the secret of the little tool’s location and my mind: Where in the world is that moisture meter?

The next time I went to check the plant in the guest room, I fussed to myself about how I was supposed to know if it really needed water without benefit of the lost moisture meter. Then I knelt to touch the soil . . .  and there it was! Perhaps because of this different angle, the missing meter was visible, tucked among the blooms in the plant’s greenery. Maybe it sounds silly, but I laughed out loud in delight. Then I took a picture to assure myself that the gizmo was, indeed, hard to spot. (Can you find it?)

As I sat in the floor with the moisture meter in hand, I realized that the lost-and-founds of life are often like my experience with that simple tool, especially the things that are intangible. I thought of all the losses I’ve endured, including some extremely hard ones the last few years. I remembered how desperately I had searched over a lifetime for what was missing, both in healthy and unhealthy ways, and I revisited the lessons I had learned in the process. To a greater extent, I thought of the more recent gifts of finding what was missing in unexpected places: in nature, in the support of others, in myself, in the faithful hold of a loving God.

Losing something significant, like a key relationship or a job or a dream, is crushingly painful. Yet it’s possible to grieve, regroup, refocus, reinvent, and even redeem the lost things that matter.

From this vantage point in life, I’m certain that what I and probably you are looking for – what you have lost or perhaps what you never had in the first place – is likely right in front of you. Even within you.

Can you see it? If not yet, don’t give up seeking. It’s there, right there, within your sight.

Marnie C. Ferree