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Pamela Loxley Drake loves puzzles, and fall and winter are the perfect time for them.

COURTESY PHOTO - Pamela Loxley Drake, Forest Grove News-Times - Opinion Pamela Loxley Drake shares her thoughts and experiences on growing up in the country. OPINION: Rural reflectionsThe card table was surrounded by the women in the family. The men were in the kitchen talking farm.

As with each year, the box was opened and fingers that all year had plucked chickens, took care of runny noses, dug in the dirt and often wiped a tear, were scattering small puzzle pieces around the table.

It was the beginning.

Fall is my time to start puzzling. Oh, yes, I love my puzzles. Either puzzles are easier or I am obsessed, as I have finished six puzzles since the first of September. Not small puzzles. Not easy puzzles.

Each puzzle has called out to me on the store shelf reminding me of other times, or perhaps intriguing me with beautiful black women in long flowing dresses or dogs wearing Halloween masks.

I had a bit of trouble finding my next puzzle. None of the stores seemed to understand just what I was looking for in their wild array of puzzle choices. Hm.

Perhaps Goodwill would have one. I often forget about that store. Years ago, it was my hot spot for books. Now I read books on my Kindle.

I walked into the store roaming the aisles. Well, look at that! Three wine glasses matched the three I had at home. Excitedly, I lined them up, hoping that I had found them all.

"Here's one," said a stranger standing next to me with a glass that did not match; however, I was delighted at her effort and this short-term friendship. We laughed and chatted about wine and cheap glassware.

Gee, there are sweet surprises in Goodwill. Perhaps they named the store after people caring about one another. Or maybe not.

I had found three pieces to go with those we had and a contact with a new piece of my experiences.

I perused the puzzle shelf. Hmm. Not one called out to me.

Then I spied it. A slightly battered box held shut by a rubber band. The picture on the front was not just calling to me. It shouted!

Science says that we can keep our brains happier if we challenge them. Needless to say, you are all certain that I challenge my brain. However, if you find something you enjoy that makes you delve into deeper thought and concentration, then you are on the right track to being a bit smarter as you age. Considering the number of puzzles I do over fall and winter, I should indeed be brilliant.

Little pieces of cardboard coated with a design. We concentrate looking for that one tiny piece that eludes us. We try to ignore that little piece moving on to another part of the puzzle yet that little piece nags and torments us. Then we find it. A feeling of completion and success soothes our brains and allows us to move to the next irritating little piece.

Puzzles. A bunch of little pieces completing an entire picture. Scattered pieces connecting piece to piece. Rather like life. Little pieces of people and experiences we accrue over the years add to the picture.

We are each a piece of a community, a world that will not be completed unless we find where we fit in. What do we contribute to the entire picture?

The pieces are scattered. Each piece is critical to the whole.

Pamela Loxley Drake is a Beaverton resident and self-described lifelong "farm girl." You can contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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