So I have this ring. Well, I had this ring. It was a gift from my mom, an amber ring in a silver band. The amber had sparkling flecks in it, which I loved because it made me think of Jurassic Park. This was my go-to piece of jewelry. When I took it off, it left behind phantom-ring tingles on my finger.

The thing was, I lost it all the time. Every day, it seemed. I would take it off to wash my hands or put on lotion, put it in my pocket, and then it would vanish. But I always found it again.

It traveled with me across continents, to new countries, all the way to the northwest of France, where I lived and worked as a teaching assistant.

Of course, the most beautiful thing about the French school system (just ask any teacher or student) is the impossibly frequent school breaks. After just a few weeks of work in October, the vacation fairies granted us two weeks off.

My fellow teaching assistants and I made the most out of our freedom and took to the northern coast of Brittany, Côtes-d’Armor, for a road trip from St Malo to Lannion. My group was the sedate one, making stops every few roundabouts, enjoying the sights and smells of the seaside (and learning French vocabulary for “not that way, go back”).

And we came to the Abbaye de Beauport in Paimpol. More than 800 years old, the crumbling abbey sits tucked off the main road. The parking lot leads to a muddy footpath and into the gardens, pruned hedge topiaries lining the pathway, the striking green grass a sign of rainy Brittany winters.

But the day we stumbled upon the Abbaye de Beauport, the sun was bright and the sky was blue. Sunbeams streamed down through the stones—greenery growing in tangles from between the bricks—and lit up the metal gate protecting the secret garden of undergrowth inside the ruins. After wandering the grounds and taking photo after photo, our group scattered to explore.

I settled down on the grass, lying below the towering wall of the greenery-filled hollow abbey. All I wanted was to look up at it lazily, struck by how unexpected it was.

My hands were dry, so from my spot in the sun, I reached into my purse and grabbed my hand lotion. Carefully taking my ring off my finger, I set it on my stomach and rubbed cream onto my hands, into my cuticles.

“We have to go!” my friend called from across the lawn. With a sigh, I heaved myself up, collected my things, and headed back to the car with a last look at the ruins.

About fifteen minutes down the road, I realized that the feeling of the ring on my finger was just phantom tingles. “Turn around,” I said after my friends had rolled their eyes at my panic. “It’s still there. I can find it.”

With some reluctance, our group made it back to the abbey, a place I had thought I would never see again. Clouds had come over the sun, but the towering, empty wall of the gutted church was still a mysterious presence.

I raced along the path to my spot on the grass, getting down on my hands and knees to look. Nothing, nothing, there! I saw the glint of silver in the splotchy sunlight coming through the clouds.

One friend said he had been sure we had made the trip for nothing.

I smiled. I had known I would find it.

Of course, I felt the same way two years later when I actually did lose the ring, for good, in New Zealand. But that’s what the silver store is for.

the abbaye de beauport from a distance over the green lawn with path and trimmed hedges

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