Okay – so perhaps we have gone a little overboard with jigsaw puzzles during this time. The breakfast nook table has puzzle spread out on it most all the time, with the weekends becoming the best time to try to fit thousands of pieces together. We have certainly made Springbok puzzles of Kansas City thrilled with our orders – I expect we are platinum customers by now. Currently we have one puzzle on the table, and six more stacked in the corner, unopened. Granted, four of them are Christmas themed puzzles, so we won’t work those until around Christmas time. Oh – I forgot – we also ordered four other puzzles from Target that should be here sometime this week. I guess we are good to go…
I do have to say that in all the puzzle working, Cheri and I have become more discriminating in our puzzling. That is, when we order puzzles now, instead of the qualifier being, “We haven’t done that one yet!” we look at the overall picture and decide both whether it is worth our time, and also whether the picture itself is going to be fun to put together. Some of the puzzles are pretty easy, even if they take a while to build. Others though have tiny little pictures existing within the overall puzzle, and those kind of near mosaic-like collages force you to constantly look at the box lid to try to figure out what the next piece may look like, which is ok, but tends to ruin the fun and make your eyes hurt, especially if it is a 1000 piece monster. There are times, frankly, when we’ve gotten into a particular puzzle, and found the pieces for the outside edge and put them together, and then we come to the agreement that “this” puzzle just isn’t very fun, and that there must be another new one in our stack that we could work on instead. Agreement made, and we step aside to select the new puzzle and start the fun all over again.
Of course, we don’t just chuck the ones we don’t like out the back door. We just put the pieces back in the box, and then eventually give them to Cheri’s sister, and let them struggle with the reject. That’s what little sisters are for, right?
So, yesterday, we came to that point with a puzzle that had an old timey baseball team feel to it. Neither Cheri nor I have ever had a love for baseball (sorry, folks – it may be America’s great pastime, but whenever I have had to go to a game, it reminds me more closely of paint drying on a cool day. Nothing really happens, unless someone drops a brush or a bucket). Anyway, the decision didn’t need to go to instant replay, or to be discussed by the ump. The puzzle was declared out, and we found a much more fun successor.
It was at this point that the “world record” came into play. Cheri grabbed the empty box, and began pushing and pulling the pieces of the rejected puzzle into the box that was positioned just on the edge of the table. She was going house afire, trying to get the pieces into the box, as if indeed the house was afire, and she needed to save this cherished possession. I began to help with a little push of the pieces toward the box, and in the process, one of the pieces missed the box edge, and ended up falling to the floor.
Cheri suddenly stopped, and with the expression on her face that looked like she had missed a gate in a downhill slalom, or pulled up short with a torn hamstring, she said, “Oh rats! I was going for a world record!” Being the kind, supportive and clueless husband that I am, I asked, “What do you mean?” She said, “I was trying to get all the pieces in the box without having any drop to the floor…” Then she looked at me – just for a second or so – but the look seemed to say, “… and I would’a been da champion, too – if’n dis baboon hadn’t stuck his meaty paws into the mix!” Like I said, just for a second, but that was all it took to make me seem like my beloved was actually from the Bronx, instead of the plains of Dakota.
In close to the same second, I found myself almost laughing, to think that a WORLD record – of whatever – would be thwarted by a single puzzle piece hitting the rug. We proceeded to continue the scraping of pieces into the box, when it then all fell apart… two more pieces bypassed the box, most likely by my meaty paws getting in the way. This time, my bride’s dear look was more than a second long, as she started shaking her head, and knew that the contest between her and the universe was over, and the universe and that stinking gravity, with her husband complicit, had robbed her of the win. At least for that day…
It really doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway, that when we find ourselves as a culture in the midst of something like all this happening – North Dakota has been awarded the world record this week of the greatest growth in CoVid of anywhere on earth. Granted, it’s way less than say, the Bronx, since there is way more prairie than people, but the percentage is pretty alarming, and the hospitals are full to overcapacity. Anyway, with all of this happening, it’s true that with the heightened anxiety that comes with it that human nature tends to want to have a win at least somewhere in the books. Even if it is only the shot for a world record in puzzle pieces in the box, we tend to focus on that, to overcome something somewhere. We grow far less passive – more competitive. It happens in our driving, in our grocery shopping, all sorts of places. We want to win.
The danger, of course, comes not from normally balanced people, like Cheri, for whom a win is a pretty benign event. It becomes dangerous when those persons in our culture who already are perhaps on the fringe of needing to find power and the sense of being a winner take on more violent or dangerous contests. We find an increasing number of car accidents in town itself, and on the adjoining interstates. We hear of a growing number of police calls for domestic violence, or shootings or knifings or other types of dangerous behavior. Again, those persons may have the tendency anyway to act with those behavioral weapons, but the air around us seems to increase both the severity and the rate of those occurrences.
We need to take a deep breath – and begin to think again. We need, no matter how much or little we might tend to go off the edge, to become more thoughtful, more self-aware, and more patient in our response, and less ready to react. Being intentional means that we don’t allow ourselves to be ruled by fear or frustration, but by an honest understanding of who we are deep inside, and Who we belong to. We need to pray more, friends, to ensure that we are focused there, and not on what we have lost, or are losing, or might lose because of a stupid virus. We need to laugh, tell jokes, and see beauty. This will eventually go, but for now, it is for us to think about our lives, and how we will make today more joyful, and less panicky. We really have no other good choice.
Word for the day: machicolation. Pronounced muh-chick-eh-LAY-shun. This will probably not be a word you would use today, but helpful when you watch an old movie about castles and knights and armies and such. It’s a strange Latin word that doesn’t translate well. Macher, meaning “to chew or crush,” and col, meaning “neck,” makes it sound like something chewing on the neck of something else. What it really means are narrow openings that appear to crush or make small the “neck” of a structure.
Ok – so those of you who are carpenters will probably know that a “corbel” is the support that juts out from the wall to hold a shelf or some sort of floor above it. In a castle, the corbels just out at the outside roof, usually, and above them is built a floor for the archers and cannons to stand. The machicolation is the opening (or crushing open) between the corbels in a parapet (the wall on the edge of a high floor), where arrows can be shot, or cannons shot down at the enemy, or even, if you are feeling up to it, boiling oil or molten lead can be poured down on those attempting to storm the castle. It’s a good defense that probably any modern home should install, in case someone tries to storm your front door. Like I said, most likely not a word to use, unless you are watching a movie with friends, and you can then say, “Wow – those machicolations really do the job!” as boiling oil pours down.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.