Finding Pictures in the Clouds

brown desk

2014-08-19 – You can see pictures in the clouds. It might be a face. It might be a horsey. It’s a fun game to play. Of course, there are no faces or horseys floating around in the clouds. But we still see them.

You can see a picture of a face on the surface of the Moon. Or on Mars. Closeups reveal that we’re seeing nothing but craters and hills and shadows. But we still see them.

We see patterns and we give them meaning.

As I have worked on my novel Cain’s Mother-In-Law, I started to notice that the names of some of the characters in my story started to appear in crossword puzzles. I do a lot of crossword puzzles. It’s an addiction. If you do a lot of crossword puzzles, once in a while you will encounter the words “CAIN” or “ABEL” or “ADAM” or “EVE.” If you do a lot of crossword puzzles, you will encounter these words a lot.

A former colleague of mine said that God was communicating to me through these words. The truth is, that these words surely appeared in crossword puzzles long before I started specifically noticing them. They are short words with common letters. Crossword puzzle constructors like word like these because they can be manipulated by changing single letters. CAIN can become GAIN if the constructor needs a G instead of a C. EVE can become EYE. ADAM can become EDAM (a crossword puzzle constructor’s favorite cheese).

These types of words appear a lot in crossword puzzles. Only I was relating them to my unfinished novel. If God was encouraging me to finish my novel by inspiring the constructors to use these words, what message was he sending to every other crossword fanatic?

If God was really sending me a message, he would have inspired the constructors to use the names of some of the other characters in my novel (MASKILA, RAKIA, ROEH, SHOMER, etc.) that you’ve never heard of. These words don’t fit the crossword requirement. In fact, no crossword constructor has ever heard of them (at least not in English). So it never happened.

This does not imply that the occurrence of the words CAIN, ABEL, ADAM, and EVE in the puzzles I worked had no meaning. It had meaning—to me. It wasn’t a communication, though. It just reflected the importance these words had in my life.

* * *

Yesterday, we took our son Nat to college in Beloit, WI. He delayed going to college for four years while he became a chef. Yesterday was an exciting day for him and for us.

Nat’s aunt (my sister-in-law) died in May. She thought that Beloit College would be a great fit for Nat. He received his acceptance on the day she died. But she did learn he was accepted before she was gone. She was very happy.

My sister-in-law had a favorite tree: a ginkgo tree. We’ve planted one in our backyard as a remembrance. I had never known about her favorite tree and I had never particularly noticed ginkgo trees in the neighborhood. But I notice them now. There’s a nice pair standing at the western entrance to the park across the street from us.

Yesterday, as we left Nat to come home, I noticed a ginkgo leaf on the ground and looked up to see where it came from. Two tall ginkgos stood at the entrance to one of the campus buildings we were passing. I ran back to tell Nat.

Now, of course, these ginkgos that I’ve started noticing have been growing where they are for years, even decades. And, of course, there are dozens of maples and oaks and pines and elms for every ginkgo. My finding two ginkgo trees on the Beloit campus was just a coincidence.

But that doesn’t imply that the find had no meaning. We give meaning to coincidences.

* * *

UPDATE: After posting this blog, I sat down to do a crossword puzzle from a book of New York Times puzzles. The following joke clues (indicated by the ?) appeared with the solutions shown:

16Across: Message at the dawn of Creation? Solution: UPANDADAM

15Across: Overhears Satan tempt? Solution: EVESDROPS

10Down: Fit for Eden? Solution: ABELBODIED

26Down: Forbidden tree decor? Solution: CANDYCAIN

No, this doesn’t change my mind about coincidences. But it’s a fun challenge.

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