Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pixie Sticks

    Does anyone remember Pixie Sticks? Not Pixie Stix the powdered sugar/ascorbic acid candy, but the game played with brightly colored wooden skewers. I don't know if it is even available anymore, because the gods know that putting anything pointy in the hands of children will probably lead to tragic, untimely death. Okay, we did stab each other on ocassion, but not often. And never in the eye (usually just the knee or back of the hand... not vital areas). I do seem to remember that at some point the nicely jewel toned wooden skewers were replaced by garish plastic ones, which did not have the same visceral appeal, and did not perform nearly as well.
    My point being, as I slowly get around to it after prolonged reminiscing over my long lost childhood, is that the old fashioned game of Pixie Sticks seems an excellent analogy to my life. I do seem to find much correlation between my life and games these days. Is it because I think life is a game? Or there are rules to follow if you aren't a cheater? Or just that it seems no matter how long I play the game, I can't seem to manage a win? I'm not quite sure. Maybe I'm just thinking in weird symbolism due to chronic stress and sleep deprivation.
    Now, back to Pixie Sticks. The game (for those of you under 40 who have probably never heard of it) involves a handful of colored, smooth wooden skewers, pointed on both ends and about ten inches long. The Pixie Sticks are held a few inches above the smooth, level playing surface and dropped to make a scattered, entangled pile of Sticks. The object is to remove the Sticks, one at a time, without making any other Stick move. It is harder than you might think, and better for eye/hand coordination than any video game ever created. We used to play for hours, sprawled on the floor, wiling away rainy afternoons (this was long before video players, computers, a gazillion channels, "kids networks" etc... back when you made your own entertainment and were not entertained by electronic devices, multi-media players or non-stop texting with fifty of your Best Friends).
    Okay, back to Pixie Sticks as an analogy. As a kid, playing the game, it makes you see how interconnected everything is. How each Stick touches many other Sticks. Moving one risks moving another and losing your turn. Yes, at the beginning of the game there are a few Sticks that are off on their little lonesomes and can be taken with no risk. These are the Sticks quickly snatched by the first player, so if you aren't first nothing comes easy. But Sticks gained with no risk are not nearly as fun as extricating an entangled Stick with delicate precision. That is a victory. Pixie Sticks teach the obvious eye/hand coordination, but also patience, viewing the big picture, understanding cause and effect, knowing that for every action there is a reaction, and (here's the main point of this rambling soliloquy) that every move I make to disentangle myself from the pile may well lead to me losing my turn but that without the attempt I will definitely lose the game.
    So as long as I can keep from poking myself in the eye, I'm going to keep playing with my Pixie Sticks Life. Maybe one of these days I will have the most Sticks and win the game. But until then I will just keep enjoying the entanglements, challenge, building of skills, delicate extrication, and the pretty colors .

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