Two pages from a lost notebook containing written messages from two individuals.

The Search for ‘Spoon’

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How a lost notebook became a Big Red tale of human connection, Internet sleuthing—and kittens

By Lindsay Lennon

In fall 2022, two Cornellians stumbled upon a soggy composition book behind the A.D. White House. As they flipped through its pages, they quickly realized it was no ordinary notebook.

The first 36 pages contained a hodgepodge of entries—poems, lecture notes, lists, trip itineraries—all in the same handwriting.

A brown composition notebook with Spoon written on the cover.
The “green” notebook had been designed to decompose.

But on page 37, it took a turn: letters, drawings, and even dried flowers and leaves, clearly contributed by dozens of people over a several-month journey around the Hill.

After much deliberation, the couple decided to try to track down the notebook’s owner.

Their most promising clue: the word “SPOON,” written neatly in black ink on the cover.

A week of research, one shot-in-the-dark email, and an hour of Twitter chatter later, the mystery was solved.

But before all that, this story—like much else on the Internet—starts with cats.

Two kittens, actually. They’d been mewing under a section of the A.D. White House for days, though Cheryl Qian ’24 and Krzysztof Hochlewicz ’21—an undergrad in Human Ecology and an alum working as a software engineer, respectively—also spotted one scurrying past Malott Hall toward the Ag Quad.

Qian and Hochlewicz started feeding the kittens, setting out to capture them. On their third day, they decided to cover more ground.

While Qian sat watch on the A.D. White lawn, Hochlewicz walked the perimeter. Five hours into the stakeout, he strolled behind the building and into a garden.

He didn’t find the kittens, but he did find the notebook—along with a pen—sitting in a plastic bag on a bench.

“Right away, I knew this was interesting,” recalls Hochlewicz. “People don’t typically carry around their notebooks and pens in a Ziploc bag.”

And a poorly secured one, at that; it had rained the previous two days, and the notebook was sopping wet. A millipede had found its way inside.

But as Hochlewicz delicately leafed through its pages, he was struck by the distinctly contrasting sections.

A woman and man smiling for the camera.
Qian (left) and Hochlewicz.

The first half was clearly penned by one person, the second half written by many others, with entry after entry addressed to the same recipient:

“Dear Spoon.” “Hi Spoon.” “To the one called Spoon.” “Spoon!”

The entries varied wildly. Some were sparse on words, featuring sketches. Some were melancholy, others were cheery, and a handful were (ahem) “not safe for work.”

A lost notebook that has become wet from rain and contains dried leaves.
The state of the notebook when it was found.

A few authors wrote anonymously, while others offered names and phone numbers. One person pressed leaves between the pages; another left a lipstick kiss.

I came to this bench to cry & saw the little bag with you in it. I feel really alone. I really needed you to be here tonight.” — Gail, 11:35 p.m. Thursday, September 15, 2022.

“Thank you for the serendipity of finding this. I do hope you retrieve it soon. And I’m glad to find other nosey ppl opened it.” — Liu, 12:15 a.m. Sunday, May 1, 2022.

My son went off to college a month ago and I really miss him. I’m doing what we did together right before he left … wandering outside in woods, gardens, and fields, and writing!” — Melissa, September 29, 2022.

It’s a beautiful day today. You are also very beautiful. We are Ithaca College students, so I doubt we’ll ever see this book again. But I hope the right people keep finding it.” — Birdie and Jackson, 2:18 p.m. Sunday, May 1, 2022.

Says Hochlewicz: “It seemed like something worth saving.”

But it didn't help, he adds, that the eco-friendly notebook was designed to biodegrade quickly and “was on the verge of deteriorating. I thought, ‘If I just leave it, it probably won’t be here tomorrow.’”

A drawing of a sun with the words "What's the Hurry?"
A sketch from September 2022.

Hochlewicz took the notebook home and spent three hours gingerly separating the pages with paper towels and a hairdryer.

“A lot of the messages were very uplifting and encouraging,” says Qian. “We wanted Spoon to be able to receive them.”

Determined to learn their identity, she went online.

A lot of the messages were very uplifting and encouraging. We wanted Spoon to be able to receive them.

Cheryl Qian ’24

Qian had noted that Spoon’s writings included themes like veganism and anarchism, as well as detailed plans to travel to San Francisco for interviews.

She zeroed in on a line of poetry: “I can beat five felony charges, effortlessly.

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That tidbit led Qian to her first potential Spoon: journalist Keri Blakinger ’11, BA ’14, author of the bestselling memoir Corrections in Ink, in which she recounts the nearly two years she spent incarcerated on drug charges.

Hochlewicz emailed Blakinger, with the subject line: “Are you ‘Spoon’? Found something in Ithaca that might be yours.”

While Blakinger wasn’t Spoon, she was intrigued—and wanted to help.

“I figured I had a large enough Twitter following, with enough people who’d be in Ithaca or connected to academia, that I might actually be able to get someone to respond,” she says.

In mid-October, Blakinger laid out the story in a lengthy tweet thread before putting out the call.

She asked her followers to contact her “if you know a Cornell-lurking anarcho-feminist who is not me and has an interest in veganism, penchant for interviewing people, disdain for society, and love of handwritten notebooks and occasional trips to SF.”

The plea took off, and was shared by former Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 (who has nearly 25,000 Twitter followers).

A man takes pictures of notebook pages with his smartphone.
Hochlewicz ultimately photographed the pages.

Within an hour, one of Spoon’s friends from campus messaged him—and he soon took to the platform himself.

“This is so fun—hi, I’m Spoon! It’s a nickname from my house. I love what happened with the notebook,” he tweeted.

Doctoral student Spencer Beswick, MA ’20, is a Montana native studying history on the Hill. He had purchased the object in question at Ithaca’s GreenStar Food Co-op in summer 2021.

A man holding a newspaper with a picture of him on the cover.
The saga landed Beswick in local media.

Beswick is also a volunteer with Food Not Bombs, a collective that serves free meals to the hungry.

Through that work, he has amassed a surplus of spoons—inspiring some former housemates to give him his now-famous nickname.

“I thought I must be in some kind of trouble if somebody is messaging me on Twitter asking me if I’m Spoon,” recalls Beswick.

“But then I saw the tweet thread, and it was so fun. All these people were engaging with this mystery together.”

Much of the notebook’s contents—including the poem that led Qian to Blakinger—relates to his dissertation research on the history of late-20th-century anarchism, work that had been stymied by the pandemic. 

“We were finally emerging from COVID, I was planning research trips, and I was getting excited about the possibility of doing the thing I was here to do,” he recalls.

“For me, the notebook symbolized that changes were happening, and that life felt like it was moving again.”

That was before he accidentally left it on Libe Slope in April 2022.

By the time Qian and Hochlewicz reunited Beswick with his notebook nearly six months later, he says, it had turned into something much bigger.

That’s why, with Beswick’s blessing, Hochlewicz digitized and shared it on Reddit, after redacting some information that identified particular individuals.

And then, after contributing his own message, Hochlewicz released the notebook back into the wild near the Ag Quad.

Hopefully, it’s still in circulation somewhere on the Hill.

(If you find it—you know what to do.)

But wait—what about the kittens that started it all?

Two young kittens, one black-and-white and one white.
The saga’s adorable feline instigators.

Qian and Hochlewicz caught them two days after they found the notebook. They’ve been adopted by a family near North Campus, where they’re living their best cat lives.

All images provided.

Published February 2, 2023


  1. Elizabeth Rosenstein, Class of 1979

    So cool. Thanks for sharing this story.

  2. Adrienne Schwarz, Class of 1980

    Great story! and I’m so glad the kitties found a furever home in the end!

  3. Kathleen Fox, Class of 1968

    Love the story! Hope more words are added over time!!!💕

  4. Mario Villanueva, Class of 1998

    But if the notebook was biodegradable and was stated in the article that it would last much longer, what steps were taken that it would last for future entries? Did I miss something in the article? I know previous pages were digitized but what of further entries?

  5. theresa nolan, Class of 1985

    Love this story of hope and unity!
    Would that we all start notebooks to be left for other contributors!

  6. Karen Allen, Class of 1984

    What a great find, both the kittens and the notebook … Ithaca’s own message in a bottle! Love the nickname and how he earned it, kudos for your good work!

  7. Steve Schmal, Class of 1962

    A truly unusual story (and well presented). It’d be interesting to know more about the contents — what Beswick wrote and all the contributors as well.

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