Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I asked for a puzzle for my birthday (Thanks Scott and Sierra!) and received one. When I was asked what kind, I suggested 1500 - 2000 pieces and something interesting, not just a black circle or something equally obnoxious. They came through with Van Gogh's The Starry Night.

I was looking for a good puzzle to be in a photo I'm doing for my father's Memory Book. Mom asked for a photo and a happy memory I had of my dad. Here it is.

My father taught me how to do puzzles when I was a kid. We'd sit down together, either just the two of us or we'd include my brother and sisters, it all depended on who was most interested. Generally it was just Dad and I. No one else was either interested or had enough patience. Dad and I didn't do little kid puzzles, they were generally larger puzzles - several hundred to a thousand pieces. I can't remember what they were pictures of, probably paintings of ships or woodland scenes.

I remember that he had the most amazing ability to put a puzzle together. He could just pick up a piece and seemingly knew exactly where it went.

Snap! would go the piece into place.

He taught me to build the borders of the puzzle first. Then to move to something within the image that had a unique color or unusual pattern and pick out all of the pieces from the box that seemed to match it. If you could get little groups put together like that, pretty soon, your picture would start coming into focus.

As I sat down to work on this new puzzle I thought about puzzles and how they relate to life.

Often when you first open the box, all of those undifferentiated pieces can feel overwhelming. You might even want to walk away from the puzzle, and not even bother starting it. "It's too hard!" you might complain. You might even be right. However, many things seem hard when you look at them all scrambled, problems to be solved, laying in a heap at your feet.

First things first, though. Erect your boundaries.

They give you a feel for how things can shape up quickly. Also, setting them gives you a decided sense of satisfaction.

You'll note that while working on puzzles, sometimes you'll put pieces together that really look like they belong together, but they don't, really. Sometimes you might have those pieces snapped together for a long time until it suddenly strikes you that they really don't fit.

It's OK to be wrong.

Sometimes, you can just pick up a piece and, like my father, just know exactly where it belongs and put it there unerringly. Those times are wonderful and it always feels as if your brain is ticking along just so when that happens. When things are going well in your life and you're making the right choices - that's a heady feeling.

There's a lot of work involved in puzzling. Lonely work, mostly, since puzzles are often done alone. You can have help, so long as the helpers also have a lot of patience. Expect them to come and go as you obsess over your life puzzle.

It's a good idea to take interest in sections that appeal to you, even if it's just a small grouping in the larger picture. Sometimes that little piece can start a chain of events leading to bigger and better things coming together. It's as if a little forward momentum can put you in the puzzling zone and you just sort of recognize where many pieces belong. Snap! Snap! Snap! The image becomes clearer the longer you work at it.

Not everyone likes the same kind of puzzles, either. I like interesting images that are challenging, but not insane. Those circular all black puzzles? Not for me.

I like my life like that, too: challenging at times, but not insane. Pretty and complex. Colorful.

I hope I can teach Caitlin about puzzling, as my father taught me. Apparently he taught me more than I'd realized as we sat together, over 30 years ago, quietly building pictures together.

Thanks Dad.

This puzzle is for you.

All my love,



Kristy said...

How beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

pamsvulcan said...

Beautiful! Just beautiful! Oh, and I have the puzzle with the family of ducks - you may or may not remember.

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