I love to do puzzles, many kinds, though right now I’m thinking specifically of jigsaw puzzles. Most of our living takes place on the first floor of our house, but upstairs is a little room, well-lit with two skylights, with a table surrounded by a futon and two comfortable chairs. We seldom use this room, so it’s perfect to begin a jigsaw puzzle there, with no rush to complete it.
Of course, once I begin a puzzle, I am compelled to continue work on it, at least during daylight. During these weeks close to the summer solstice, that’s a lot of daylight! My puzzle right now is about half done. The border is complete and half a dozen little groups of connected pieces. It’s twenty inches, square, with five hundred pieces, filled with flowers, all sizes and colors. Not much green, though, as it’s all blossoms, no leaves. After completing the border, I focused on yellow, because there are several big yellow flowers.
I can’t wait to go back to it, pulled as strongly as to a good book, once you’ve read enough of it to get the characters and the plot tension. Sometimes when I leave the puzzle, even for an hour, then go back to it, I can quickly see where two sections should connect. Something about that feeds me, excites me. Why is that?
The puzzle has no natural up and down, no ceiling or floor, no sky or ground, no natural framing, just blossoms. Sometimes I look at one puzzle piece, then examine the picture, looking for a distinctive feature of the piece, for example, a bright bit of orange or the tiny stamens from the center of a bloom. This allows me to place it in the general vicinity where it belongs. I have no idea why this is so satisfying, but it is.
In fact, when I retired, the routine that quickly became mine was to linger in bed in the morning with my iPad. After checking my mail and news sources, I complete the New York Times mini crossword puzzle in three to five minutes. (It times me and reports back.) Then I complete a daily jigsaw puzzle on line, probably about half an hour. I’ve tried a few of the free puzzle apps and this particular one is my favorite, because it has few advertisements.
All of my life I’ve enjoyed puzzles, including Sudoku, crosswords and other word games, and math games, including solving equations. Please don’t groan! I actually liked taking SATs, got 795 out of 800 on math, and still wonder which one I missed. I know that math isn’t most people’s favorite. What is it that makes me enjoy it so much? It’s like a good mystery.
Is there something that all these kinds of puzzles share? When I’m working on one, my mind is always partly involved. Even when I’ve walked away from it, I’m connected; part of my brain is thinking about it. Then, when it’s done, there’s a clearing, a freeing up that’s like a deep breath. A short while passes, than I want another puzzle or book to begin the process again.
Writing is not like that for me. If I don’t have a group to write with, I don’t write. I might think about it, imagine a topic I’d like to try, but there’s no compulsion that pulls me to it. That unfinished puzzle upstairs, though . . .
Housecleaning is not like that, either. I can clean a bit in one room, get interrupted, and have no desire to return to it. My husband occasionally tells me that his next wife is going to be a good housekeeper. I won’t share my usual response.
This morning, we visited the PEM, a fabulous local museum. Like all museums, it has a fabulous gift shop. We ended our visit there and I bought another puzzle, 500 pieces, and this puzzle has a characteristic that’s new for me. It has a velvet-like surface! Can’t wait to open it, but I’ll finish my flowers puzzle first.
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