For the past 20 years or so, we’ve done a jigsaw puzzle at our house each Christmas, starting about the third week in December.
But the adventure begins earlier, as we look for just the right puzzle. We might find one featuring an historic Acadian cottage, as we did at the garden shop of the Annapolis Royal Historical Gardens in Nova Scotia in 2015.
Or we might choose a puzzle of a painting from an art gallery shop, as we once did in Ottawa for a Group of Seven painting.
But we’re most likely to find our puzzle of the year while meandering through the countryside and spotting the Living Waters Christian Bookstore in Linwood, ON , with its great selection of puzzles downstairs. Or we might find it at a heritage-themed shop, such as at the Blue Gate Restaurant in Shipshewana, IN. or Sauder Village in Archbold, OH.
And, to be honest, I’ve found that I really do prefer 500 piece puzzles recommended for ages 10 and up, such as last year’s Let’s Get Started, with its five charming cats, rather than 1000 pieces all of uniformly small size as in this year’s Trail Bottom Autumn. Sam, on the other hand, has the patience to work with the small pieces, and prefers that challenge.
By the third week of December, we set up the card table in the corner of the living room, drag over a good light, and get to it.
When I first opened the lid this year, I saw nothing but piece after piece of yellow and orange leaves, and it looked pretty hopeless. But we took a deep breath and made a start.
First, I put the lid where I could see it. The picture on the lid gave me the security that somebody has done this puzzle before…or at least somebody designed it and knows what it’s supposed to look like when its finished.
Our first step is always to find all the smooth edges of the border, thus framing the puzzle, so we can see the actual dimensions and the actual size of the pieces. Next we look for something like a small section of blue sky or a row of buildings that cuts the puzzle into sections, then for how the lights and the darks intersect, and one thing leads to another.
But always, when putting a puzzle together, there are missing pieces. I look everywhere…under the box…on the floor…and they’re simply not there. So I assume that the puzzle making machine malfunctioned at that point, or that the cat (when we had one) dragged them off.
So I go away for awhile, and when I come back to the puzzle, behold, there is a missing piece!
And of course there are pieces I think MUST fit at a particular spot and I almost force them to fit but they simply won’t, until finally I find the spot where they really do fit instead.
Gradually, over time, the pattern develops and the picture really does take shape until eventually – at the end- we can see the whole picture, and we can grasp that this one little piece and what we did with it IS an important part of the whole….
A friend of mine, who is an avid puzzler, tells me that putting together a jigsaw puzzle is a holy undertaking for her. As the picture begins to make sense it reminds her, she says, that God is here with us, working with the choices we make and fitting them into the larger picture.
Another puzzler friend says, “Puzzles are so relaxed; they never call out for attention, they are just there, waiting patiently for someone to fill in blank, empty spots.”
So…when will this year’s puzzle look like the picture on the box? Maybe by the end of January??? And meanwhile, the puzzle waits patiently….
Questions for Reflection:
If you are a puzzler, where does the satisfaction come? In completing it? In finding a hard-to-locate piece? In seeing the design unfold? Something else? Do you find puzzling relaxing or stress producing? Why?
Next week: My Life Flows On….