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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Signs

Do not pass, the sign instructed, like a hundred signs I’ve seen before, driving down a hundred different roads. But today, it struck me. Caught me off guard. Do not pass. Do not go beyond, do not push, do not make waves, Do. Not. Pass.

It made me long to stomp on the gas pedal and speed down the highway, swerving through traffic. I decided to put that thought in my hat, and think about it later.

Idling behind a pearl colored mini-van in five-o’clock traffic, I looked up and saw a neon orange sign. “Road Work Next 25 Miles.” Hmmm. A warning. How nice. To know that a rough road lays ahead---curves, twists, turns, falling rocks. So much of my life just happens, while I’m busy focusing on the radio dial, or watching the tail lights in front of me.

A dark highway is ahead, lit only by my dim headlights and the occasional oncoming eighteen-wheeler. The dial on the dashboard clock reads 11:11 p.m. My eyes are tired, dry, and wide. The darkness pressing in at the side windows makes me feel quite small, as I note a sign that reads, “Scenic Overlook Five Miles.” The irony strikes me. I’ve been driving this road my whole life, and sometimes I miss the sights, because the timing is wrong. The scenery may be breathtaking, but the darkness hides it from my eyes. Farther down the road, in six hours or so, the sun will rise. There will be another beautiful view for my wide-open eyes to see, and hopefully coffee. This darkness will pass.

A flashing yellow light in a sleepy, tiny town, and I pause, look both ways, and keep driving. A yellow diamond on a post says “Slow. Children at Play.” Suddenly I want to pull over to the side of the road and find a park, a playground, a swing. I want to run, dance, breathe, pause for a while and let my child out. Why not? This trip is not so much about the destination as the journey. Who said play is against the rules?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Puzzling

She spilled the puzzle pieces across the tabletop and began sorting, slowly, methodically, searching for edges, for corners, making sense out of the chaos of five-thousand pieces. It took some time, but she finally separated the straight-edged pieces from the others, and separated them into piles. Next, she took all the edges and sorted them into like colors, pieces that looked like sky, she sorted from those that looked like green grass.

The more methodically she worked, the more her breathing slowed, the more her stress melted away, and the more ordered her own emotions became. At some point, an hour or so into the exercise, she started matching pieces---the parts that stick out with the parts that go in, edges all turned the right direction. Suddenly she was stuck, frustration knitting her brows and tightening across her shoulders. She grabbed the lid to the puzzle box and set it in front of herself, peering at the photo there.

Something wasn’t right… this one was more difficult than she expected. She skipped from the pile of pieces with yellow to the ones that looked like the fluffy clouds. She sorted the ones without the edges, and divided piles from piles, twisting and turning pieces until she started making progress again.

Soon she had patches scattered across the tabletop; but always there were those pieces she picked up, turned this way and that, and discarded again, because they didn’t seem to fit. Whole sections seemed to come together and look nothing like the picture on the box.

Still, she worked diligently, trying to make sense of it all. Time passed, and she fumbled with pieces, matched shapes and hues. At some point, the problem became obvious. She wasn’t working with a complete puzzle. In fact, some of the pieces didn’t even belong in this box. She couldn’t finish.

I wonder if she felt cheated, or felt like she’d broken out of the box?

How would you feel?


From a prompted writing exercise during A Cup of Words Writers' Group Monday meeting, February 23, 2008.

Prompt - Write about the failure of a reasonably expected outcome.

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