Shavin: Nothing anywhere all at once

Dana Shavin / Contributed photo

I often chide my husband for not being able to find things that turn out to be right in front of him. The refrigerator is a fine example. That he can find, but the blueberries inside it? The ones front and center on the eye-level shelf? Can't see 'em. Ditto the jelly, the butter, the cheese -- the cheese, which literally has its own drawer, devoted to -- you guessed it, cheese.

What usually follows -- sometimes immediately thereafter, sometimes in the next day or so -- is that I can't find my keys, or my phone, or my car in a parking lot, which will bring us all the way back around to the blueberries, jelly and cheese, and how he was, if not unjustly accused of constantly overlooking things (which he wasn't), then unjustly singled out.

Which is why I hate to admit when I've misplaced something. But when time came last month to add a few new recipes to our dinner repertoire and I couldn't find my go-to cookbook, I had to ask if he'd seen it.

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What made the misplacement of the cookbook so perplexing is its size: It's a 5-pound behemoth that can't be tucked away on a shelf without being obvious. It won't fit in the kitchen cabinets or drawers, but I looked there anyway, twice. I would not have given this book to Goodwill, because the photos are so lovely and the recipes so incredibly healthy that, even if I never cooked from it, I would feel my health improve and my outlook soar.

It should not have been in the attic, because I'd used it recently, and the attic is where belongings go to die (old artwork that will never sell but that we can't throw away, previous drafts of books I've written that were either published or not, but either way are now obsolete, the still-wrapped going-away gift I got from my last job upon my departure, etc.). Also, the attic is cold and smells faintly of death, and I hate it. So there was absolutely no chance I'd put the cookbook in there.

I looked three times.

All this to say I knew I the book was somewhere; but whether I'd ever find it was anyone's guess. Meanwhile, the same three meals had been on rotation for dinner for so many months, I was beginning to fear our tastebuds would expire from neglect. The only recourse was to reorder the cookbook from Amazon, which I did. For $6. That's just a little over a dollar per pound of book -- a bargain for something that, by its mere presence in your life, makes you a better person.

"You know what's going to happen," I said to my husband, who may or may not have been looking for the blueberries at the time. "As soon as the new one gets here, I'm going to remember where the old one is."

The book came four days later. I unzipped it from its oversized packing envelope and laid it down on the counter. It made a satisfying thud. Then I smacked myself in the forehead.

"Oh my God," I said. "I loaned it to Janet."

I sent her a screenshot of the book. "Do you have this?" I asked.

Of course she did.

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I have been thinking about the case of the lost-then-reordered-then-found cookbook over these ensuing weeks, wondering what I am supposed to learn from the experience. Is it that we have to take the pressure off of outcomes in order to have a satisfying outcome? If I believe this, won't I then just be putting pressure on taking the pressure off of outcomes?

I've decided that the takeaway has more to do with how parts of our brain are able to work on a problem or a task while other parts of our brain are busy doing other things. It's why creative people take walks when they're blocked, why we remember our dreams in the middle of the grocery store, why we keep breathing when we are asleep. Heck, it's even how Archimedes came up with his "Eureka" moment in the bathtub: while he was scrubbing his whatever, some part of his brain was noticing how his presence in the tub displaced the water, and BOOM, we got buoyancy theory.

So never doubt the power of your own brain. Like EPB, it's capable of running hundreds of channels at a time, with hardly a glitch in the programming. Unlike EPB, there's no remote control to misplace. Which is a good thing for my husband, who would forever be looking for it in the cheese drawer.

Dana Shavin is the author of "Finding the World: Thoughts on Life, Love, Home and Dogs," a collection of 20 years' worth of her columns. Email her at, follow her on Facebook at Dana Shavin Writes and read more at