I lost something. Something I dearly needed. . . my keys. Specifically, my room keys with my car keys attached.
I was key-less and 90 miles from home.
On an ordinary day I would classify these items as misplaced, something found later after a diligent search; but on Saturday they were lost.
The instructor gave an out-door classroom assignment. Since the workshop was held on a college campus, and because I wanted to collect as many experiences as possible, I wedged my car keys (key fob inside pocket) with the metal room key sticking out.
Then I was off.
Outside with pen and notebook in hand, tasked with collecting, observing —and then analyzing said observations into a story.
My novel in progress features a train and since I want to write accurately about my character’s experiences, I lit out, walking at a rapid clip.
Walking while writing.
Writing while walking.
Thinking. Listening. Observing. Writing.
I wove through the campus, through the woods, off the designated concrete path.
Off the designated concrete path, I found a tree house that no one else knew about. Later, I found the tracks. I touched the tracks, laid down on the tracks, collected nails and bolts from alongside the tracks.
Then I returned, carrying said bolts and nails back to class, (mercy, they are heavy). I placed them on the table with a need to wash the rust from my hands. I reached into my pocket.
The keys were lost.
Not missing. . . lost.
Creative minds will understand me when I say that I literally felt every drop of creativity leave my body. It slipped down my arms, cascaded from my fingertips.
Dashing to the restroom, I washed my dirty hands then whispered to the coordinator, “I lost my room key. No, not the swipe card.” I double checked my name badge where the exterior door swipe card safely remained tucked inside. “Just the door keys.”
She called facilities and ordered a spare key.
Returning to the classroom, I wrote my observations, penned them into a story I would not share with the class. Creativity tends to take Confidence with it when it leaves. From that moment forward I focused on lost keys, especially after a pop-up storm dropped an inch of rain.
Sunday morning came, bringing with it the realization the keys were gone. I arose early, lit out again retracing my steps through the grass and gravel for the umpteenth time. With my aging car, I’d need a new key fob which would required an (expensive) call to a dealer.
Whatever, I thought, feeling lower than a whale’s belly. What-ever.
Then I began to pray.
Lord, I’m not going to pray for my keys because I know they’re gone.
I’m not going to ask you to return them, because I’ve already done my due diligence, retracing my steps, walking, looking, laying sideways in the gravel looking for something shiny. The keys are gone and I know that. So I’m moving on.
The catering van drove by, almost breakfast time. The driver smiled. I waived and continued praying, aloud.
Lord, thank you for everyone I’ve met here this weekend.
Thank you for the talented women at my table. I praise you that the agent is interested in Erika’s work and that Whitney might consider finding a place for her short story. Bless them both Lord. Bless our presenters, Jim, Bryn, Gary, Megan for their vulnerability and displays of raw emotion. Bless Christopher. Thank you for his honesty and that all the instructors were approachable and kind.
My walk, and prayers continued: Lord, bless Meg, Kate and Betsy who have labored in the sweltering heat to bring us a fantastic conference. May they be restored after the conference.
I made the loop, from beginning to end, praying out loud, walking, talking, and looking down at the grass, and the gravel, should the soggy keys magically appear.
They did not. I returned to the common area to the breakfast buffet. I placed items on the plate and settled in for another round of workshops.
Taking a seat, I began eating when Meg raised her hand and said, Renea, are these your keys?
From Meg’s beautiful hand dangled my room and car keys.
Of course they are my keys, I responded. I was just praying. I took the keys. “I’m curious, how did you get them?
“Someone found them lying in the concrete walkway,” she replied.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy, and, Farming Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches by Mercer University Press. She is currently working on her novel, Outbound Train, set in her hometown of Bryson City