Monday, October 8, 2007

Life is a Puzzle

I have just finished my online jigsaw puzzle. Please give me a moment to congratulate myself. There, that should do it. Thank you. I won't be submitting my time or checking high scores because for me,it isn't about trying to be the fastest and the best. In fact, I don't think I could enjoy doing a jigsaw puzzle if the goal was to complete it blindingly fast, sliding pieces into place without error. A jigsaw is a slowly built masterpiece, a project, a hobby that both exercises the mind and soothes it at the same time, giving it a break from real world problems and replacing them with the problem of why this piece that has just the right tip of blue and stripe of white doesn't fit perfectly where it ought to. But jigsaws, like life, often don't make sense until you see the whole picture.

I learned to love jigsaw puzzles when I was a kid. On Sundays my parents would often travel to Maine or other parts equally distant to attend church or visit relatives and if we were lucky, my younger brother and I were allowed to stay home with the older siblings to watch over us. Often this privilege came with the obligation to clean the house, which we all happily agreed to. Surprisingly, we worked well together. Staying home meant no parental control over the stereo. The elder sister and brother took turns spinning records our parents would never allow to be played in their presence - The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys.

And when we were done scrubbing floors and folding laundry to our forbidden rock n' roll beats, my sister would spread a jigsaw puzzle across the dining room table. We could all sit and work on this wonder together. That was the time for my sister's quieter taste in music and we listened to Johnny Mathis , The Mama's and The Papa's and Neil Diamond. I learned the pleasure of the quiet pursuit of a dream - the dream pictured on the box. Many years later, when the elder siblings had grown and moved out, I could still be found on a winter's day, alone in my room with nothing but a stereo and a jigsaw puzzle.

Time moves on and life gets busy. A real jigsaw is large, takes up space and time and doesn't fit in. I have no extra table that can be devoted to such a project. Pieces are more than likely to go missing long before they are properly set into their places.

So, an online jigsaw puzzle has to do. They can be a pleasant way to while away time on the net but the experience is not complete. They lack that tactile pleasure, the fingering of a piece, the satisfaction of feeling it snap into the spot that your eye finally spied and that smug knowledge that your mental calculations of its parameters were unerring.

If you like jigsaw puzzles, there's a new one daily at and sometimes they can be nicely challenging, like the one that is in black and white and doesn't colorize until you fit the pieces into the right place. But, if you truly love jigsaw puzzles, I highly recommend a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle spread out over a dining room table, with music on the stereo and preferably an assortment of family and friends to sing along with you as you explore the mystery of its construction and the quiet pursuit of a dream.


easywriter said...

I like puzzles. They pass the time beautifully and I, like you, don't worry about how long it takes.

Andrea said...

It's like the kid who solves the Rubik's cube in 12 seconds while blindfolded. It's like "is that all there is?" Once he's done, he's got to find something else to do. Jigsaws can keep you busy and amused for hours, if you take the right approach.