Do you remember those pesky “Problems” that we were given in school to apply mathematical concepts to apparently “real” problems or questions?
I remember trains leaving stations and traveling at different speeds and being asked about how long it would take for a particular train to make its journey to a certain destination. There were infuriating questions about filling baths and men digging holes.
My brain never ever “got” these problems in a way that provided any sort of correct mathematical answer. My brain liked to problem solve by thinking outside the box and coming up with answers that were not relevant to maths.
So if trains were proving maddening in terms of time and distance then my answer would have been “take the bus instead”. Likewise problems filling a bath – take a shower and as for men digging holes – well use a digger.
This photo shows a chap outside my house on Monday perhaps solving a maths problem but with my answer staring him in the face!
We have had fibre optic cable installed underground and hole digging has been a big part of that operation. I watched this chap busily dig for a bit and then the digger was used to make the hole as large as they needed. I suspect caution was required around hitting other underground services which meant manual labour was the best way to carefully check what lay beneath.
Oh and while I failed the solving of maths “Problems” my rather creative and lateral thinking brain has held me in good stead to solve many, many a real problem.
I’ve been searching for inspiration in the last weeks and in a helpful way the cloud formations have lifted my eyes upwards. Looking up engages useful parts of our brains when we are seeking new ideas.
However the cloud formations have been inspiring in their own way, bringing me to wonder about them this summer. Often there are fluffy clouds being chased about by the winds and going past at a lower level while high above are the most amazing long, thin clouds, soft puff balls, or wispy brush stroke clouds, or a stretch of cake icing cloud
Photos don’t always do these amazing high cloud formations justice but here is a sample from recent days.
There is often thick cloud about as the sun sets at the moment but we are also getting glimpses through the density of the most stunning, vibrant sunsets.
This one has the thick clouds being pushed along in the wind and a bank of lower thick, grey cloud drifting onto the hills but flashing dramatically in any gaps was this brilliance.
You may remember my post about allowing my brain to get to work on the crochet flower pattern while I went out into the garden. Well here is the result. A small crocheted flower, made out of embroidery thread, for a wee knitted tunic.
I have since made a second crocheted flower as “neurons that fire together wire together” meaning that the more we practice a skill, the stronger the connections in our brains and the easier (in theory) things become. My second one is a little different to the first one so I have not polished my skills on this pattern yet.
The other small flower is on the Fuchsia procumbens, a native plant to New Zealand. I have this low growing pretty plant growing in a mass under the Melia tree.
The flowers came out in December and are delicate red and yellow. In autumn large pink/red berries form on the plant. It is an evergreen with pretty round green leaves.
The people who owned this house before us were very keen gardeners and planted some unusual specimens. I think this is one of those.
My goal yesterday morning was to crochet a small flower embellishment for a wee tunic I had knitted.
I have to confess to putting this seemingly small task off for a number of months now.
But the garment needs to be completed and with the weather looking cloudy and windy I gathered the resources I needed.
My skills with a crochet hook are pretty minimal but the pattern told me “easy”, “simple to make”, “basic” and so I told myself I could do this.
Hmmm 2 hours later my fingers and thumbs were in a muddle, the number of “undoings” was mounting, as was my frustration level.
Right I thought I’ve given this a good go, I’ll go and do something completely different and come back to the crochet later.
The garden work eased my frustration and allowed my brain circuits to focus on weeds but to keep processing what I’d learnt in the morning.
Once back to my crochet project my good old brain suggested I try something new with the crochet hook and suddenly I could see progress and something appearing in my hands that resembled the picture in the pattern. I perservered, reread the instructions, tweaked my approach and voila I had done it!
It really does pay to change pace, environment or activity when things don’t go well or the ideas dry up. All the while trusting that our clever brains are still working on the problem. Then return to the task with freshness and (hopefully) success.
Yesterday I blogged about the importance of time to yourself after I witnessed a checkout operator describing her enjoyment of a morning to herself. I can see some hours today which are already labelled “time to myself” and I am really looking forward to those.
As I was thinking about the regenerative nature of a chunk of unpressured time to ourselves, I also thought about how all human beings, no matter their age need “regroup time”. A transition space where they allow time and often personal space to shift from one activity or focus to another. I am very aware of this in my own family as the adults come in from work and often settle with a newspaper or magazine while they regroup from the pressures of work, the drive home and a shift into more leisurely time in the evening.
School children benefit from regroup time as they shift from the demands of the school routine, learning, noisy groups of friends and any personal challenges of the day. A slow drift home on foot is ideal, some food and water when they arrive home, and time outdoors just mucking around allows them to restore so many aspects of their being.
I noticed my two year old grandson needed some regroup time when he woke up from his midday sleep recently. He was happy to sit on my knee and allow me to cuddle him but apart from that he just needed regroup time to shift back into full of energy and movement mode.
No doubt neuroscience could explain what happens to our brains and why we need regroup time but for now we simply need to care for ourselves and our children by providing this important part of being human.
I have a curious and inquiring mind. I wrestle with the Big puzzles about God and life and purpose and existence and this puzzling seems to happen in a wide and expansive part of my brain.
I also wrestle on a daily basis with more minor puzzles, such as what to cook for dinner! Lots of these sorts of puzzles get worked on in the part of my brain that applies logic and consequential thinking.
However I also love crossword puzzles and my brain seems to work on these in a quiet, focused, “flow” part of my brain. One particular type of word puzzle I enjoy is called a Code Cracker
( go to www. codecrackerbooks.com for more details). Once I have cracked the initial code I can follow with little hesitation through the puzzle. I can become oblivious to time and other distractions. I feel a sense of satisfaction once the code is cracked, as well as a relaxed feeling that comes from giving my whole attention totally to one task.
Another trick I have learnt about my brain and how I function is to leave the clues I cannot solve initially in a crossword and go and do something completely different. I often return to find the answers pop instantly to mind. I find that I can use this trick to help solve other puzzles in my life that don’t always have a single, straightforward or easy answer. Time and focus on other tasks or activities can sometimes allow some other part of my brain to come up with an answer or a variety of answers to choose from.
I am interested in hearing about puzzles you enjoy and ways in which your brain works to help you solve puzzles.