The attraction of riddles has to do with our minds trying to organize things. Mind senses and, where it encounters mystery, tries to make sense. It reckons, calculates, culls clues, learns method and solves. Where it cannot solve by other means, Mind imagines.
It imagines the riddle alive --an enigma, the universe speaking, inviting. A story unfolds. Consider this photograph recently sent me by Daughter, who knows my recreational affliction of making stuff up, and I suspect inherited it.
It is bare, snow and shoes. Mind must populate it: a curious crowd at the sawhorse barricade; a weary, stodgy, square-toed inspector looking out of place in city derby and raincoat with raglan sleeves. He sees the snow disturbed by hundreds of footprints and wagers they match the discarded shoes. Good old slow, solid police work ahead, he thinks, and sets about measuring them. But then he sees a figure peeking shyly from behind the dumpster.
A little maid, neatly dressed in cap and apron, motions to him urgently. He dusts the snow off his wool trousers and plods over to her. "Here now," he says. "What's all this?"
She looks up at the inspector with rosy cheeks and round eyes the color of forget-me-nots, takes a deep breath and says, "Oh sir, haven't you heard? Ever-so-sudden-like it was!"
You are quite welcome to continue this scenario or make one up of your own. It's what we do. Riddles, mysteries are enigmas certainly, but are they not psychopomps also, assisting us through a larger world? One gets stuck in routine, everyday things, but from time to time our universe springs an enigma upon us and we must answer.
When I began this adventure, so long ago, I thought I was an explorer, that all risks were worthwhile and around every corner a new world waited. I no longer wave a hansom down with extra fare and shouts of not a moment to be lost. I take the train now. But I am still an explorer.