Pandemic Puzzling

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With the pandemic raging and many people staying home when possible, jigsaw puzzles have become a popular pastime. There’s even been a shortage of them.

I’ve been doing jigsaw puzzles for years, with both trepidation and determination. Do jigsaw newbies really know what they’re in for?

The Hero’s Journey

Whenever I work on a puzzle, especially those 1,000-piecers, it’s like I’m undergoing the classic hero’s journey. Maybe not a journey on an Odysseus scale, maybe not quite so heroic, but a test of courage and fortitude nonetheless: a call to action, initial reluctance, acceptance of the challenge, conquering obstacles, eventual victory.

I’m always reluctant to start a puzzle because the task seems daunting, if not impossible. I open the box and all those random, meaningless individual pieces fill me with apprehension. I think: I’ll never be able to do this. This will never become a coherent whole.

And this is supposed to be a way to relax?

I have to remind myself I love jigsaw puzzles.

It’s all chaos in the beginning

Getting a Feel for Things

I start feeling around inside the box, I start picking out edge pieces or pieces that clearly denote specific parts of the image. Soon I’m spilling out pieces onto my puzzle board and trays. Turning pieces over, scanning, sorting, creating piles, beginning to hunt.

I get a few pieces together. A few more. The frame takes shape. Some of the easier elements are assembled. Before long, I’m in deep. There’s a tactile reward of holding and handling the pieces. A visual reward of identifying colors, patterns, and spatial relationships. Even a meditative aspect when focused on the task.

One of the comforts of working on a jigsaw is that you can control the outcome. You may face challenges along the way (is this sky or sea?), even moments of despair (these pieces all look the same!), but if you keep trying you can finish and I almost guarantee you’ll experience a great sense of relief and accomplishment. All from a jigsaw puzzle!

Working on puzzles is also a flexible activity. You can spend hours at a time bent over a puzzle (achy back and neck), or a few minutes here and there as you walk by and the puzzle grabs your attention. You can work on the puzzle alone or with others. Pandemic shortages aside, with many puzzles to choose from, you can find an image that appeals to you and a piece count that falls within your interest or skill set.

Reef Rush Hour

The reward is worth the effort.

This most recent puzzle is called Reef Rush Hour. My sisters and I share puzzles, and this one came from Keyna, via Susan. The image has a lot going on.

Unlike some puzzles that offer large areas to work on, such as mountains or meadows or the big red barn, this puzzle has many small parts. You have to go fishing (pun) from the very beginning: find the pieces that look like this kind of fish, find the pieces that look like that kind of fish, and slowly assemble the different components and then attach the sections together as the puzzle expands.

And when you’re finished, you can feel like a hero. Small victories are still wins.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.

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