"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, February 4, 2011

Solved: One of Life's Great Jigsaw Puzzles

Tuesday, I drove 130 miles in slush, drifting around corners, hydroplaning across huge puddles, struggling to keep the vehicle tracking in semi-clear ruts and out of the ditch..   Wednesday, I drove the route again, forty of them white-knuckled at 25 mph in rain on ice. 

Today the conditions were great, the temperature back down below freezing and the roads well-sanded.  That left the mind free to wander, and it took complete advantage, immediately descending into an old bad habit, that of berating myself for stupid mistakes and ill-considered things I’ve said in my lifetime.  After a couple minutes of this self-flagellation, I decided I wasn’t going there today, not with blue skies and sunshine, so I forced myself to change the subject.  

Next on the menu was a huge jigsaw puzzle, which when completed became a crossword puzzle.  I’ve been kicking around various ideas on how to complete the crossword part without writing directly on the pieces.

Ever since I was a young child, I’ve enjoyed working jigsaw puzzles. I  devised a system of organization that works well.  First, I select the border pieces, turning the other pieces right side up as I search through them.  Next I segregate pieces by color and then by shapes.  After that, even the most difficult mono-chromatic puzzles go together rapidly. 

All of a sudden, without any conscious prompting, the word “tortuous” plastered itself across my mindscape.  It doesn’t have anything to do with turtles or tortoises, nor does it mean tortured.  I, however, might beg to differ with the latter, as one of the definitions of torture is “anguish of body or mind.”  This reference will become completely clear later.

By definition, “tortuous” means “marked by twists and turns; winding, devious, tricky.”

I’d first heard the word four years ago when an emergency room doctor held up the results of a test that involved injecting dye into my veins and referred to my carotid arteries.  In medi-speak, he said the arteries took a scenic route through my neck up to my brain, rather than making a fairly direct run with the oxygenated blood the brain requires.  The brain, though it averages only two percent of the body’s weight, consumes twenty-five per cent of the oxygen, so those carotids are quite important.

When you see someone laying a couple fingers on someone’s neck under the jaw, he’s searching for a pulse in a carotid artery.  When I researched carotids and such, I was surprised to learn how close to the larynx the carotids pass.  If I’m understanding the language correctly, the larynx lies immediately between the two carotids as they pass through the neck.  The important word here is “pass.”

The brain, as I mentioned, requires oxygen to operate both itself and the rest of the body correctly and properly.  In my case, that oxygenated blood travels by slow boat around and around, back and forth, swishing through the maze of arteries, veins, and vessels before eventually completing its tortuous journey and arriving at its many destinations.

And it so totally explains the many times in my life I find my mouth open and babbling while my brain is not yet engaged, and why I continue to inflict great anguish of mind on myself for the results of the stuff that falls out of said mouth.



  1. OMG...I want those Wysocki puzzles, but on second thought I've probably already worked them since he's my favorite. I have one on my table that I need to finish.

  2. I wish I had an excuse as valid as yours for all the times I say things and regret it later.

    Lon tells me, "Think first." That's wonderful advice but a hard habit to get into!

    At least as we write what we want to say, we get a chance to see it before we send it on!!!

  3. What a cool puzzle. I used to love to play Scrabble, but it was hard to find anybody else interested in it!

    Your description of carotid arteries, et al is great.

    But please, don't stifle yourself! :)

  4. Guess maybe I should have mine checked. Would explain a few things lately! Great descriptions.

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