The other day I was thinking about my annotated copy of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I read this in seminary and took notes in the margins. It was part of my permanent collection. After a couple of moves from Boston, finding myself in Illinois, I couldn’t find it. Like socks in a dryer, it had simply vanished. Socks, of course, sometimes fall out of a sweatshirt or some other garment some time later—a piece of clothing with which they shared the carnival ride of the tumble dry. The book, however, stayed vanished. I often wonder where it went. Prior to Nashotah House, mostly my wife and I kept our books in boxes. Even now with a house many of them are still in boxes. But I’ve never knowingly left a book behind when vacating an apartment. Where is Nietzsche?
Wherever he is, he’s not alone. This has happened before. While attending Edinburgh University it seemed like a good idea to get out a bit. Travel is an excellent form of education. My wife and I, both interested in history, joined Historic Scotland. Membership came with a guidebook describing all the properties and we used this as a record of which sites we’d visited and when. (We used to keep extensive travel diaries, but epic trips are few these days now that we’re no longer academics.) In any case, when we moved back to the United States, that guidebook was a treasured possession. Yes, we kept it with the other books but in those days they weren’t so many as they’ve become now. When we were unpacking things in our apartment in Illinois, we noticed it was missing.
Our flat in Edinburgh was small—really only three rooms. Nothing was left behind there. Where, then, did our book go? Where’s Nietzsche? What other items have we lost that we haven’t discovered yet? And where do the socks go when they’re lost in the dryer? It’s almost enough to make me believe there are little wormholes scattered around our planet, particularly attracted to socks and books. Well, phones, wallets, and car keys too, I suppose. The biggest mystery, for me, is the books. We’ve unpacked nearly all of them now that we have a house. Those still in boxes have been taken out and returned, no box remains unopened. Our Historic Scotland guide and Also Sprach Zarathustra aren’t among the books we have. They’re out there with the many things we treasure and misplace over time. Perhaps some day we’ll stumble upon that place and be amazed.