A mystery: In 200 years, the cityscape of Paris has remained virtually unchanged, despite revolution, wars and all attempts at modernisation.
Mid-19th-century lithograph of bird's eye view from St. Gervais.
Mystery intrigues me and I'm not alone - books, plays, television programs and movies painstakingly explore mystery after mystery.
As a child I spent hours reading Nancy Drew mysteries and the series about her male counterparts, the Hardy Boys. But my favourite was a book called Minute Mysteries. It presented numerous mini-mysteries for young readers to solve. When imagination and code-deciphering abilities failed, answers could be found at the back of the book.
Clue was my favourite board game. And I loved exploring new places and learning new things. The sound of foreign languages - the more indecipherable the better - was music to my ears. I loved Dashiell Hammett's gritty San Francisco detective novels, Edna Buchanan's mysteries in Miami and black-and-white film noir.
I always thought it would be fun being a detective. Instead, I decided to be a reporter, because I could write and the job combined many of my interests: meeting fascinating and sometimes dangerous movers and shakers; traveling to foreign climes and satisfying my boundless curiosity by fitting intricate pieces of a puzzle together to solve a mystery - the who, what, where, when and why. Getting to ask unlimited questions, seeing behind the scenes of other people's lives, learning to distinguish between truth and deliberate spin - what a great job - and I got paid for it!
I love the mystery of meeting someone and slowly getting to know and understand them. I love the romance and mystery of not knowing what will happen next; of believing that an unexpected treat is just around the corner. I love that life is rich with possibility and promise. If a seer or fortune-teller offered to predict my destiny, I wouldn't want to know. The magic's in the mystery - every single day.
But I'd personally like to unveil two unsolved mysteries from my past. I'd like to know who killed my former love. I'd also like to know what happened to Mary Jimmie "BoBo" Shinn, an artist and friend who disappeared, apparently abducted and murdered. Maybe if today's crime-scene technologies and specialised forensics investigators were available then, those killers would be behind bars.
A universal mystery that interests me is what makes some people survivors and others victims? Why do some people go through catastrophic illnesses or wrenching, terrible circumstances and survive - and even thrive - while others cling to the role of helpless victim? Why do some people moan and groan, relentlessly complaining "oh, woe is me," while others draw on unknown reserves of inner strength to meet any challenge?
Why do some people waste time shrieking and railing against their fate, while others muster enough grace to grapple with unforeseen events? Why do some people carry on a "poor pitiful Pearl" act years after some unfortunate incident - while others move forward, adapting to changing circumstances and carving out a future, albeit one proving vastly different than anticipated?
Why are some people mired in a quicksand of negative energy, while others rise to the occasion, no matter how challenging? Why do some people get back up to fight again, while others stay down for the count?
The strongest, bravest people I've ever met are survivors - those who have come through tough times and learned from their experiences. The weakest people I've come across are those who breeze through life seemingly with nary a worry or those who have never been able to see past a bad experience to envision a more positive future.
Is it a question of genetics or a matter of environmental conditioning? I'd like this complex mystery solved.
Of course a few practical mysteries continue to vex me on a fairly regular basis - such as why - even though I eat less than anyone I know and walk for miles- I easily gain weight? Why when I'm in a rush, I'm always in the line moving at a snail's pace?
Why do the rich get richer and the poor and innocents suffer? And why do the "best laid schemes of mice and men"* so often go awry?
*Robert Burns, "To a Mouse," 1785