The Concept of Loss

by Kara Kaloplastos

Over this past week, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the concept of loss—not because I’ve lost anyone close to me or for any other upsetting reasons. I’ve been thinking a lot about the everyday losses we all encounter on a regular basis. Let me explain.

Over the course of my writing residency at Lesley University, I read a poem by Elizabeth Bishop titled “One Art.” Some may know it:

“One Art”

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

Over the past few weeks, I have made a lot of important life changes, which may or not have included some great losses, as most life transitions often evoke. I have decided to make a large scale move over the past few weeks, which has involved the loss of people in my life whom I care about, and places too that I have always loved. I have since been prepared to deal with the larger losses, both emotionally and otherwise. This is to be expected. We as humans understand that losses like these occur. With that being said, it seems as though I have given even more thought to the smaller things I have lost so far on my journey. To date: a pair of sunglasses in Connecticut, toiletries in Rhode Island. Somewhere along the way I’ve also mistakenly switched flip-flops with a girl who had the same size feet. The shoes were the same make and color too, just so you know!

It is the seemingly small losses that are sometimes really significant. When I’m reading (or writing) a story, I really try to focus on the little details that will shine light on a character or situation. Perhaps one of my characters has left behind a charm bracelet which might have a little figurine of the Eiffel Tower, or one in the shape of Texas? These subtleties can shed a lot of light about who the person truly is. I’ve left behind many more things—losing lottery tickets that find their way to the floor of someone’s vehicle, an extra large coffee cup on someone’s kitchen counter. What do all these subtleties say about us as people? When we lose, is it truly loss? Or is it natural to leave bits of ourselves behind in other peoples’ lives?

One of my friends whom I am traveling with has “lost” much more than I have. Before deciding to travel the road and go where his heart desires him to be, he owned a house with a dog, pots and pans, furniture, etc. When he decided to leave, he gave away or sold everything he owned. It might be just “stuff,” but this loss is just as much of a statement as a loss more generally of one’s former life. I think that Elizabeth Bishop realized this, and even though in the poem she confesses that loss may seem like a disaster, ultimately it is not. It is a natural occurrence in life—and yes, everything is going to be alright, whether you’ve lost a someone you deeply care about, or have simply misplaced your car keys.