Dawdling one afternoon in a gift shop in my D.C. neighborhood, this book caught my eye: Bet You Can’t Do This!
For less than $8, the book has already provided hours of entertainment, and I’m not even halfway through. I tackle one or two puzzles most nights before lights out.
The trick is that the puzzles contain words not listed. You need to think about the subject matter. A search for extinct animals included “woolly mammoth” and “dodo.” Not listed were “ptarpan” and “giant sloth.”
Some searches provide the comfort of familiarity. I aced a puzzle on California city names, having lived in and explored the Golden State for many years, and another on ice cream flavors. (In high school I scooped my share as a Haagen Dazs and Thomas Sweet server.) I struggled over a puzzle with words from Mardi Gras.
U.S. Presidents, Greek gods…many of the puzzles review vocabulary learned in grade school. (In the “First Ladies” puzzle, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was listed along with Michelle Obama. Martha Washington and Helen Taft were the unknowns.)
The book’s final word finds don’t list searchable words at all, only the topic. Early on, I thought I’d outsmart the system and work through the book back to front. The 92nd puzzle of the 115,”9-letter C words,” was the third I tried.
But my mind wasn’t primed. I ended up peeking at the answers like a fifth-grade math student keeping a finger on the solutions page at the end of the textbook.
Sometimes rushing ahead takes away the fun of solving and learning.
After all, isn’t all learning a process of solving?
We emphasize in meditation and yoga the necessity of learning with a “beginner’s mind.” Most of us have stories of taking on too much too early in practice. I know I do: letting my feet fall asleep in meditation so that when I stood up I stumbled; wrenching myself into backbend I hadn’t prepped for and tweaking my neck.
The arrogance of the over-eager.
The word “arrogance” translates from Latin, “claiming for oneself.” That sounds greedy.
The word searches remind me to take things slowly, steadily and systematically.
Confession: Even though I’m progressing through the puzzles step-by-step, I do peek ahead at those to come.
In “Y Words,” “yoga” jumped out at me. I humored my fervor by marking it, a word I read, think and say a zillion times a day.
Soon I’ll finish the “Y” puzzle, uncovering the rest of these words.
Each little letter cluster is rich in associations. There’s “yahoo,” the address of my first email account; “yardstick,” an essential tool when I taught middle school (for pointing and drawing straight lines!); “yellow,” my favorite color the summer of 2002; “yeast,” the smell of a bread-baking phase using Edward Espe Brown’s Tassajara Bread Book, which took me deeper into Zen; “yearling,” the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings story given to me one Christmas by my grandmother, I reread it every few years; “yesterday,” the great Beatles song….
Thank you John Samson for writing the word search book.
Propped by pillows, holding my highlighter as late night sounds of the city seep through the windows–pedestrians’ laughter, sirens, helicopters, revved engines–these searches transition me from a yoga teacher and writer’s daytime seeking to a dreamer’s nighttime sifting.
The word “search” derives from Latin’s “circle.” These (not-so-simple) puzzles take me into the mind’s treasure chest of antecedents while anchoring me in the present. It’s as if the purple pen marks the line between right and left hemispheres and in so doing imaginatively draws them together. Yoga.