The puzzle of puzzles

In the corner of our living room stands a table. On top of the table is an unfinished jig-saw puzzle. When the mood hits me to slow down for a minute and quite worrying, I go to the corner of the room. I gaze and shuffle and attach puzzle pieces to watch come together the scene of ice-skaters in a park surrounded by leafless trees.

Experts say that solving puzzles helps reinforce existing brain connections.

I see how tackling a puzzle can reinforce the existing brain connection of mine that, say, puts together jig-saw puzzles. But I’d beg to differ it helps me connect 5 p.m. with making dinner.

For twenty years when the children were growing up, I had a strong brain connection that come 5 p.m., I’d put together some form of edible food for our family dinner. Now?

I’m too busy solving the jig-saw puzzles to remember putting together dinner. Apparently, the dinner brain connection was loosey-goosey. But not the puzzle connection.

For years, I was lucky enough to live near a guy who also loved jig-saw puzzles. We shared puzzles, saving us both a bundle in costs. I also would buy puzzles at garage sales or thrift stores, but usually a piece was missing, the piece I was always looking for.

Puzzle solving started when I was young. Mom brought home five puzzles, each with 100 pieces. “Here, turn off the TV and put these together,” she’d tell us five kids. It took about twenty minutes. “Take them apart, and swap puzzles with your sister or brother,” Mom said.

Five puzzles, five kids, five swaps, you get the picture. Less TV.

We noticed, however, that each time we re-solved the puzzles, we got quicker. So, we started racing one another. A puzzle was soon put together in less than 30-seconds, serving as top entertainment for weeks.

Over the ensuing years, Mom bumped us up to 500 then 750-piece puzzles. By time I married, I preferred 1000-piecers, thinking no more of numbers as I enjoyed the feeling of therapy when connecting puzzle pieces.

Then, my preference for 1000-piece puzzles joggled when yakking with our new son-in-law. He was working on a 15,000-piece puzzle. Fifteen thousand?

He still works on it, and that was ten years ago. But at the time, I couldn’t resist getting a 3,000-piece puzzle to challenge myself. It was torture and I’ll not do that again.

In the meantime, our son-in-law explains, “My puzzle pieces came in four bags. Each bag represents a quarter of the 15,000 pieces. After finishing the first bag and starting the second bag, I wondered if each quarter was really the same puzzle cut.”

Huh? I had absolutely no brain connection here.

But he orders a piece of clear, four-foot plexiglass, lays it on top of the first finished quarter of the puzzle, and slides the second quarter of the puzzle on top. Sure enough, each quarter was made from the same cut.

When it comes to the sky, he puts the pieces together according to shape, shown to him below the plexiglass.

Some year, I’ll see on the wall, an eight-foot by four-foot finished puzzle of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, hands touching.

“You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight. She’s worth far more than money in the bank; her friendship is better than a big salary. Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her. With one hand she gives long life, with the other she confers recognition. Her manner is beautiful, her life wonderfully complete. She’s the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her. Hold her tight—and be blessed!”–Proverbs 3:13-18, The Message

 

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