My friend Monica, who plays a lot of sports, once told me about the day that volleyball slowed down for her. She had been playing for months but the learning curve so steep that even after all that time, all she could do was scramble to process what was immediately happening. Then one day, just like that, she could suddenly see the game as a whole. She was able to anticipate where the ball would be in a second's time and, therefore, where she needed to be.
About a year ago, I experienced the same thing with cryptic crosswords.
The first time I saw this sign, which is painted on the side of a building by my old home, I did a double-take. The juxtaposition was so strange. What did it mean?
Was it a message of despair? A comment on the futility of a creative life? Was a hopeless artist asking, through graffiti, “what’s the point of all this, anyway?”
Or was it whispered supplication? Was it a reminder to spend our too-few days thoughtfully? Was it a two-word echo of Henry David Thoreau’s reasoning for going to the woods: “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”?
All of this passed through my mind in a split-second. Then, I realized I was looking incorrectly.
It's rare but every now and again the Globe and Mail messes up the Saturday cryptic crossword puzzle and mismatches the clues and the grid. We love Fraser Simpson's Saturday morning cryptic over here, as I've said previously, so it's a bummer when we're forced to miss out.
This morning was one of those mornings: the grid started with 1 Across but the clues started with 7 Across. We mourned the lack of puzzle, then moved on to other things. Until my husband said: "I wonder if we could figure it out for ourselves."
When I write, I am alone. I'm physically alone in a quiet room but I'm also alone in my thoughts. Sometimes I become so absorbed in the text that I literally do not hear anything, including the sound of my husband's voice if he walks in and asks me a question. It's a solitary exercise, writing, from the first sentence I type out on the screen to the moment I hit "send" on the email to my editor.
So I'm always a little amazed when an acquaintance calls up to say she stumbled across a piece of mine in a magazine and enjoyed it. It seems magical somehow that a piece I wrote in such solitude has made its way out into the busy, bustling world and has a life of its own, interacting with people that I have never met and probably never will.
I'm a writer, explorer, amateur setter of cryptic crosswords, and new mom.