Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jigsaw puzzles, more to me than fitting pieces together


I've been puzzling for most of my life. I find this to be a relaxing and enjoyable activity that I don't do often enough. Yesterday though, I decided it was time to drag a puzzle from under the bed. This is the first one I grabbed, one of the many I have picked up at a garage sale.

If I don't like the photograph of the finished puzzle, I simply won't do it. I seem to be drawn to nature scenes. This one is pretty--rather reminds me of Arkansas in the Fall.

As in the photo at right, this one cost only $.50. Such a bargain for hours of enjoyment. I never know if all the pieces will be there in a used puzzle, but if not, well it only adds to the challenge.

I love a good challenge.

To me, working a puzzle in the quiet of a cloudy day or just before the sun sets on the natural light that is so advantageous, is just about nirvana for me.

Working jigsaw puzzles has taught me many lessons in my life.





I suppose it all started with my father, who was a master puzzler. I remember one night he stayed up all night working on a 5,000-piece puzzle that was the hardest one I'd ever seen. The pieces were tiny and the colors muted. I was little back then, maybe 7 or 8 years old. He was working on it when I went to bed. When I got up the next morning, the puzzle was done. I was pretty impressed. 

Finish what you start

I have always believed in finishing what you start. Perhaps this is where it began. My father had the patience of a saint. I'd like to think I learned that from him too. I don't mind performing tedious tasks. I like the process of accomplishing something, never hurrying just to get it done. 

I have specific disciplines in mind when I put a puzzle together. First, the border pieces must be located--as many as possible. They all get taken out and put into a pile until the four corner pieces are found. Only then do I allow myself to put the border together, at least as much of it as possible. That is the stage pictured above. Most of the border is complete, with only a few pieces missing. 

The next phase is to turn over all the pieces, right side up, and lay them onto the table. That is always the hardest part, because as is evident at my house, there are tiny paws that like to play with puzzle pieces. Ryan has her claws into the pieces and is raising the border off the table. Such a great action shot--who knew? The next step will searching the floor for whatever is missing.

This only adds to the challenge. Let's face it, challenging myself is what this is all about.


Ryan loves puzzles. Her playfulness, along with that of her sisters, may explain why I don't do this very often.

There is always a lot of sleuthing going on when putting a puzzle together

As I was working on this puzzle this morning, I was thinking about other lessons this activity has taught me. It has certainly made me observant. My eyes tend to scour the pieces in the box in search of any and all straight edges. Later, I look for specific colors or shape. Colors of the pieces are so important. Subtle changes in color make all the difference in locating just the right piece. Then there are those seemingly one-of-a-kind shapes that are just a little different than all the others. That aids in finding the pieces too.

Puzzling is meditative. Often times my mind will wander as I look for pieces to fit into the right place. There is no corralling the thoughts that run through my mind, thoughts that range from what I'm going to make for dinner to whether or not jigsaw puzzles have contributed to my love of quilting. The two activities do have some commonality. Of course there is the news of the day that comes and goes and the more deep thoughts about how I wish my father was sitting beside me working his magic on this puzzle.

People my age still do puzzles, evident in senior gatherings, for example. But I wonder how many young people today do them. The world is so fast-paced today, that I doubt young people have the patience for such an activity. They tend to like instant gratification. Putting a puzzle together takes too much time for that.

Puzzling is a nice family activity too. I remember a folding table being set up for days at our house. The whole family would work on it. Sometimes, it was just a matter of walking by and spending a few minutes looking for a few pieces. Other times it was like a magnet in the room that refused to release me.

I hope this activity never gets lost in the shuffle. Puzzling really is so much more than just fitting pieces together.