Missing Persons

Last week I lost Michelle. Again.

Ironically, I worried as I searched for her that she might not know where I was, either.

I decided to fetch a load of wood from the Blow Down to add to the wood shed. I went out to pick up my back board. On my way, I saw Michelle near the shed. We waved to each other, I grabbed my back board, then turned around to tell her where I intended to go. She had disappeared. I decided that, since she saw me reaching for the back board, she knew I intended to cross the ridge, so I didn’t track her down to tell her specifically.

When I returned to the compound, I looked for her in the garden and the cabin, but couldn’t find her.

I searched every place I could think of: the boat house, the shed, the Power Point, beach, both outhouses, and the greenhouse. I checked the cabin and a couple other places twice.

I didn’t want to call out to her, but I prepared to do so as she walked into the door yard. She had been gathering seeds from a garden box near the solar panels. I’d walked by her 3 or 4 times without either of us seeing the other.

This happens every now and then. Almost always, I go looking for Michelle to tell her something, and can’t find her. I search high and low, or summon my “quarterdeck voice” and bellow her name until she comes running.

We used to ring a boat bell attached by the front door. Our rule dictated that everyone should come running if they heard it. The bell corroded in our salt air, and broke. I want to replace it with a big iron dinner triangle, but have yet to find one.

These disappearances are especially frustrating for the same reason losing items inside the cabin drive me crazy: there just aren’t that many places something or someone could go! How can we lose something or someone among so few hiding places?

It’s simply too easy to lose a person here. If one of us were to fall down prone in most locations around the homestead, that person would essentially disappear. On the beach, in most places in the forest, or on the surrounding outcrops, a person could remain missing for a long time.

Further, one or the other of us could slip off the rocks into the ocean. Our currents are fast enough at certain tides to sweep a person away in short order. Far less likely, but not totally improbable, one of us might get dragged off by a bear. We remain mindful that we live in isolation, far from the reach of our society’s normal safety officers, such as fire or police personnel. We must remain vigilant against the unexpected.

On the other hand, we don’t feel it’s reasonable to dictate that we constantly inform each other of our whereabouts. We do it a lot, routinely mentioning that we’re headed to the outhouse, for instance. We inform each other of our wherabouts whenever we think about it, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. We’re responsible adults, after all. We do try to make sure we tell each other if we leave the compound.

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